Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths a year in the US are due to medical error.
The means medical mistakes are the third biggest killer in the US, behind heart disease and cancer, pushing respiratory diseases into 4th place.
The Johns Hopkins team says the Centers for Disease Control’s way of collecting national health statistics fails to classify medical errors separately on the death certificate.
The researchers say that since 1949, national mortality statistics have been compiled using codes that do not have an automatic way of recognising incidence rates of mortality due to medical care that has gone wrong.
The say that most medical errors are not due to bad doctors; most are systemic problems, including poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the absence or under-use of safety nets, and other protocols, as well as unwarranted variations in treatment.
Picture source: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County via Wikimedia Commons