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“1,000 Deaths a Day.” Huge Number of Preventable Medical Errors Spurs Senate to Act

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held a hearing on July 17th entitled “More Than 1,000 Preventable Deaths a Day Is Too Many: The Need to Improve Patient Safety.” If that statistic shocks you, consider these other numbers that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.), chair of the subcommittee, recited as he opened the hearing:

  • Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • As many as 400,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals;
  • Approximately 180,000 Medicare patients die every year from adverse and preventable medical errors in hospitals
  • One in twenty-five patients acquire an infection while in the hospital, which led to 700,000 people getting sick and 75,000 people dying in 2011.
  • Medical errors cost the U.S. health care system more than $17 billion in 2008. If you include indirect costs, medical errors may cost in excess of $1 trillion per year in the United States.

Six experts testified before the subcommittee, and all of them cited the need to improve the health care system as a whole to stem the tide of these avoidable deaths. Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the panel that “medical errors are largely the result of bad systems of care delivery, not individual providers … The strategy for improvement has to focus on three main areas: metrics, accountability, and incentives.”

Among the suggestions for addressing the problem was a proposal to establish a National Patient Safety Board — similar to the National Transportation Safety Board — to investigate patient harm. Jon James, a scientist and patient advocate who lost a son due to a medical error, also proposed a national patients’ bill of rights that would contain protections similar to those for workers and minority groups.

As Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told the panel: “Our collective action in patient safety pales in comparison to the magnitude of the problem. We need to say that harm is preventable and not tolerable.” Agreed.

Nugent & Bryant: Connecticut Medical Malpractice and Medical Error Law Firm

If you are the victim of medical malpractice or preventable medical error, it is important to speak to a qualified personal injury attorney right away. The law in Connecticut places strict time limits on your ability to file a medical malpractice claim. It is also critical to act quickly to preserve evidence of your injury and treatment. Call us today at (203) 795-1111 to discuss your case.

This article has been prepared by Nugent & Bryant for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.