A study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Patient Safety reveals that preventable medical errors cause between 210,000 and 440,000 deaths a year.
James, whose 19-year-old son died as a result of insufficient hospital care, concludes in the study that after analyzing years of data and records, death by poor hospital care is rising at an epidemic rate.
“The epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed,” the study says. “Fully engaging patients and their advocates during hospital care, systematically seeking the patients’ voice in identifying harms, transparent accountability for harm, and intentional correction of root causes of harm will be necessary to accomplish this goal.”
“Perhaps it is time for a national patient bill of rights for hospitalized patients,” James continues in the study. “All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”
If the findings of the study are accurate, it now means that, behind cancer and heart disease, respectively, preventable medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
The Institute of Medicine, or IOM, has reported different findings, however, saying that the number of deaths is only near 100,000. Still, James maintains that his study is accurate, and regardless, it doesn’t matter in the long run. James writes:
In a sense, it does not matter whether the deaths of 100,000, 200,000 or 400,000 Americans each year are associated with PAEs in hospitals. Any of the estimates demands assertive action on the part of providers, legislators, and people who will one day become patients. Yet, the action and progress on patient safety is frustratingly slow; however, one must hope that the present, evidence-based estimate of 400,000+ deaths per year will foster an outcry for overdue changes and increased vigilance in medical care to address the problem of harm to patients who come to a hospital seeking only to be healed.