If asked to identify the top causes of death in the U.S., few people would think to include medical negligence. Nevertheless, research shows that incidents of medical malpractice account for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.
According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, approximately 98,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to medical mistakes that have been identified as preventable. The IOM estimates the annual cost of these mistakes to be approximately $29 billion. If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were to include information about medical errors in its reports on common causes of death, it would be the number six leading cause of death in this country.
What is worse, further research has demonstrated that the IOM estimates may, in fact, be low. For example, a study by the Congressional Budget Office found that there were approximately 181,000 incidents of severe injuries due to medical negligence in 2003 alone. Research by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement shows that there may be as many as 15 million incidents of medical negligence in the U.S. each year. While not all of these incidents lead to life-threatening complications, the reality is that the problem is much larger than many people realize.
Sadly, although these numbers have been recognized by the medical establishment for many years, hospitals in the U.S. have done far too little to address the problem. Indeed, recent studies by researchers at Harvard University indicate that about 18 percent of patients admitted to hospitals suffer some sort of injury while they are receiving treatment.
In the meantime, many people in the U.S. remain unaware of the extent of the medical malpractice problem in the U.S. Too often, debates about tort reform and capping plaintiffs’ ability to receive due compensation for their injuries simply skip over the issue of patient safety. The reality is that medical malpractice, not suits by injured patients, is one of the leading factors driving up the costs of medical care in our country. Several years ago, the insurance lobby created a crisis which had no basis in reality, claiming that medical malpractice lawsuits brought by plaintiffs were driving hospitals and doctors out of business.
The Harvard Study concluded that only a small fraction of the actionable malpractice claims were being started in courts around the country and that in fact, the number of lawsuits remained flat and payments by insurance carriers actually went down. By focusing additional resources on preventing medical mistakes, it would not only improve patient safety, but would also decrease the cost of medical care.
If you have suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of a doctor or hospital, our experienced malpractice lawyers in NYC can help.