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What can be done to control what new study identified as third leading cause of death in country?

According to a new study, many medical errors go unrecorded.
According to a new study, many medical errors go unrecorded.
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We’ve all heard of horror stories about a doctor operating on the wrong patient, or a nurse giving someone medicine meant for another person . But what’s more troubling, according to a new study, is that many medical errors go unrecorded.

The study, which was published this week in the medical journal, BMJ, finds that over 250,000 deaths are due to medical errors in the US every year. That puts medical mistakes as the third leading cause of mortality in the country, behind heart disease and cancer.

It’s difficult to get an airtight number on deaths caused by medical mistakes, given the lack of available data. One study in 1999 from the Institute of Medicine pegged the number between 44,000 to 100,000. In 2008, the US Department of Health and Human Services put the number of deaths at 180,000.

The authors of the BMJ study--both doctors at Johns Hopkins--say the actual number is likely to be much higher than their own estimates, since nursing home deaths are not included.

Larry and our panel of medical experts look at what can be done to address the issue.


Martin Makary, MD., MPH, an author of the new study published in the medical journal, BMJ, that has identified medical errors as the third leading cause of death. He is the author of the book “Unaccountable” (Bloomsbury Press, 2013) on the topic

Tejal Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, President and Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit advocacy organization, National Patient Safety Foundation based in Boston, MA

Missy Danforth, Vice President of Hospital Ratings at the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization in DC that advocates for hospital transparency