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Preventable medical errors are third leading cause of death

For most South Carolina patients, going to the doctor when you are sick is the obvious thing to do. However, a recent study might lead some to think twice. Medical errors occur at an alarmingly high rate and current tracking methods make it easy for institutions to keep things under wraps.

These hidden medical errors are doing more than just causing serious pain and suffering — they are killing people.

Medical errors third most common cause of death

In the United States, only heart disease and cancer outpace deaths from medical errors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, annually, over 250,000 patients die because of these errors. However, this is only an approximate estimate based on death certificates, as the current medical coding system does not have a designation for errors.

This makes understanding the true impact of errors difficult. Some speculate that medical errors might contribute to an even greater number of deaths than current estimates, but it is difficult to be certain with the current system naming only underlying conditions — such as cancer or heart disease — on death certificates.

Everyone is at risk

TV shows and movies might like to portray medical errors as a sudden, catastrophic event, such as slicing an artery during surgery or giving a patient a drug to which he or she is allergic. While these errors can and do happen, they may also be much less obvious. These may include:

  • Failure to diagnose an illness in a timely manner
  • Rendering a misdiagnosis
  • Misreading test results
  • Leaving a foreign object behind during surgery

These errors might not cause immediate death, but they can all slowly deteriorate a patient's health. For some, the eventual outcome may indeed be death.

Most medical errors are preventable

Current medical tracking and coding systems do not allow for the accurate collection and study of relevant data. Without this information, medical institutions and health care providers cannot implement new policies that may protect patients from negligence.

Medical errors can have a profoundly negative impact on the lives of South Carolina patients. Even those who survive such errors may experience a marked reduction in their overall health and life satisfaction. Medical malpractice suits can serve a two-fold purpose for victims. When successfully pursued to completion, victims can achieve the compensation necessary for their injuries while also affecting change that will protect future patients.

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