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Medical errors common but largely unreported


When Oregon patients die from medical mistakes, the death certificates usually don’t list ‘medical error” as the cause of death. In most cases, the physiological cause of death is listed even if a patient died as a direct result of a surgical mistake or a delayed diagnosis. Incomplete death certificates are just one example of how serious medical mistakes go unreported.

According to a study published in The BMJ, there are around 200,000 to 400,000 people killed each year in the United States because of preventable medical errors. Diagnostic mistakes, poor judgment, communication breakdowns and other kinds of medical errors are actually the third leading cause of death in the U.S. At the same time, an unknown number of people are seriously injured each year by non-fatal medical errors.

Many people who have worked in the health care industry have admitted that there is a culture of silence surrounding this issue. Physicians and other medical personnel often remain silent for fear of litigation from injured patients or retaliation from their employers. However, admitting when medical mistakes happen may be the best way to prevent future ones, and some health care institutions have implemented error reporting systems that encourage doctors to own up to their mistakes.

When patients are not informed about mistakes that were made during their treatment, they can be seriously injured. Those who suspect that they were injured by a medical error such as a misdiagnosis might want to speak to an attorney about their health care history. An attorney couldinvestigate a patient’s medical records and gather evidence to be used in a medical malpractice lawsuit.