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Many deaths caused by medical error, report says

Heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease are commonly understood as the top causes of death in the United States. Rhode Island readers may be interested in a recent report that reveals medical error accounts for an large portion of deaths, due to medication mistakes, surgical errors and missed diagnoses. Researchers feel that increased awareness, and owning up to the issue, can help ameliorate the issue.

A recent letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from a group of physicians notes that over 250,000 people die every year from mistakes by medical professionals. They claim that the mistakes fall into four separate categories: diagnostic errors, preventable side effects, system defects and the providers' skills. When these deaths are taken into account, they actually exceed the numbers for the third cause of death, respiratory disease, bumping it to the number four spot. 

Researchers say such a significant number of deaths, over 700 per day, should not be ignored. They request that the deaths caused by medical mistakes be included in the CDC's accounting so that increased study and funding can be funnelled to prevention of medical error.  Until more action is taken, individuals can take steps to try to ensure their safety while under the care of a physician. 

Those steps include looking for an attentive physician - one who makes eye contact, answers patient questions and seems interested. People are urged to decline procedures with which they are not comfortable. If a person is harmed while under the care of a physician, due to medical error, they may have a valid medical malpractice claim to pursue. In Rhode Island, attorneys are available to assist victims with claims of medical injury. 

Source:, "Medical mistakes kill more Americans than strokes, Alzheimer's", Jennifer Graham, Accessed on Aug. 15, 2017

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