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Medical errors: Third leading cause of death in United States

In May, a medical journal estimated that more than a quarter of a million deaths in the United States each year are attributed to medical errors. Only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths each year.

In 2011, a law changed in North Carolina that caused medical malpractice lawsuits to drop 46 percent. There's no evidence to prove that medical errors dropped, however, despite the drop in lawsuits.

In 2010, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report that estimated that each year in North Carolina, 5,700 patients are permanently injured each year and 4,000 patients are due preventable medical errors.

Last year, there were only 314 medical malpractice lawsuits in North Carolina. That's the highest number of medical malpractice lawsuits in five years. However, according to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's professor of surgery, collecting death statistics is like "the fox guarding the henhouse." The doctor fills out the paperwork regarding why a patient dies and that is what is tracked in the medical statistics across the country.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a study that estimated that 98,000 patients died because of medical error. It was the first study that addressed the issues of medical errors on a broad scale. The study from May of this year relies on a more comprehensive study and a professor involved in the study says that the estimate on deaths from medical errors is very conservative.

If you or a loved one have suffered because of a medical error, you may have recourse. A civil lawsuit not only allows you to recover compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering and more, but you can hold the medical personnel and facility responsible for the error accountable.

Source: Triangle Business Journal, "New estimate finds 'medical error' is third leading cause of death," Jason deBruyn, Aug. 26, 2016

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