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Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States

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By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the research, said in an interview that the category includes everything from bad doctors to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.

“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said.

Their analysis, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, shows that “medical errors” in hospitals and other health-care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States — claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

Looming catastrophe’: These 7 emergency surgeries account for 80 percent of deaths and costs.

But in a paper published in JAMA Surgery on Wednesday, researchers found a surprising pattern. In an analysis of 421,476 patient records from a national database of hospital inpatients, they discovered that a mere seven procedures accounted for approximately 80 percent of all admissions, deaths, complications and inpatient costs related to emergency surgeries. The sample included only adults who underwent a procedure within two days of admission from 2008 to 2011.

The British Medical Journal finally concludes with the statement, "Although we cannot eliminate human error, we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences."

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