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Medical negligence linked to an astonishing number of deaths

New Jersey patients generally go to the hospital in order to get well, but not everyone has the fortune to make it back home. Medical errors, including negligence and misdiagnoses, are the third highest cause of death in the United States. Conducted by a leading school of medicine, the study also came to another startlingly conclusion -- deaths from medical mistakes go under reported.

The study set out to determine how widespread deaths from medical errors are, based in part on the national health statistics exclusion of these deaths in its data. What they found left the researchers shocked. In 2013 alone, there were 251,000 deaths from medical errors, making mistakes made by medical professionals responsible for more annual deaths than respiratory diseases.

One of the study's authors offered further insight into the issue by comparing it to the aviation industry. After a plane crash, there are often hearings that result in the findings of an investigation being made public, forcing companies to rethink their safety approaches. The opposite is typically the case in the medical industry, where many settlements are contingent upon the victims remaining silent on the matter. These confidentiality agreements prevent any type of meaningful self-evaluation by the medical industry and create environments in which patients cannot be sure that they are receiving the safest possible care.

The New Jersey Patient Safety Act is meant to help protect patients by requiring hospitals to report preventable deaths and other adverse outcomes to the patient's closest family or the patient him or herself when possible. Despite that these reports cannot be used as evidence of negligence in a medical malpractice suit, it is widely believed that hospitals continue to underreport these types of events. Until such a time when hospitals commit to disclosing their errors and implementing new safety strategies, many victims have few options other than to seek necessary recourse through a medical malpractice claim.

Source:, "Study: Medical Errors Are Third Leading Cause of Death", Michael Hill, May 24, 2016

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Alan D. Bell
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