Preventable Deaths from Medical Negligence

In a September 2013 article, the Journal of Patient Safety reported that patient deaths as a result of medical errors are on the rise. The article estimates that the range of annual premature deaths that are associated with preventable harm in hospitals is between 210,000 and 400,000. This estimate represents a significant increase from the reported range in the 1999 article To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, which estimated the annual range of premature deaths to be between 44,000 and 98,000.

39169436These articles and the research behind them point to a harsh and unfortunate reality: our health care system is not safer and is failing to take necessary steps to prevent death and serious injury resulting from medical mistakes. In fact, the problem has gotten much worse. An increase of between 400 and 500 percent in 15 years in the number of preventable deaths from human error is totally unacceptable. In 1999, the authors of To Err Is Human outlined several steps recommended by the Quality of Healthcare in America Committee of the Institute of Medicine to improve safety and help decrease the number of preventable deaths and injuries. Some of these suggestions seem obvious, such as implementing better hygiene and patient safety protocols for the delivery of care to reduce mistakes such as preventable infections and medication errors. Apparently, either these suggestions have not been implemented industry-wide or they have been ineffectively implemented.

Perhaps the health care industry as a whole should revisit the original strategy for the improvement of care proposed by the Institute of Medicine.  That proposal included a four-tiered approach, which included:

  • Establishing a national focus to create leadership, research, tools, and protocols to enhance the knowledge base about safety.
  • Identifying and learning from errors by developing a nationwide public mandatory reporting system and by encouraging health care organizations and practitioners to develop and participate in voluntary reporting systems.
  • Raising performance standards and expectations for improvements in safety through the actions of oversight organizations, professional groups, and group purchasers of health care.
  • Implementing safety systems in health care organizations to ensure safe practices at the delivery level.

For the victims of medical mistakes and their families, the devastating losses associated with these errors such as overdosing patients and other medication errors, surgical mistakes, and acting on incomplete or incorrect patient health histories, do not make sense. How does one come to accept that their loved one’s death was the result of an error? How does one recover from such a devastating and preventable loss?

Atlanta law firm, Brownstein and Nguyen, has first hand knowledge and experience in working with families who have suffered tragic losses from preventable deaths and serious injuries due to medical mistakes. We are dedicated to advocating for families and loved ones who suffer. For more information about medical malpractice and negligence cases, click here. Contact us today for a free consultation and case review.