This study was published in the BMJ 2016 May 3;353:i2139
Study title and authors:
Medical error-the third leading cause of death in the US.
Makary MA, Daniel M.
Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA
This study can be accessed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27143499
This study analyzed the scientific literature on medical error to identify its contribution to US deaths. Four studies were found and comprised of the following:
(i) A 2004 report of inpatient deaths associated with the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research Patient Safety Indicators in the Medicare population estimated that 575 000 deaths were caused by medical error between 2000 and 2002.
(ii) The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General examining the health records of hospital inpatients in 2008, reported 180,000 deaths due to medical error a year among Medicare beneficiaries alone.
(iii) Classen (2004) et al estimated over 400,000 deaths a year.
(iv) Landrigan et al (2002) estimated 134,581 inpatient deaths a year from poor inpatient care.
Of note, none of the studies captured deaths outside inpatient care—those resulting from errors in care at home or in nursing homes and in outpatient care such as ambulatory surgery centres.
A literature review by James (2013) estimated preventable adverse events, described an incidence range of 210,000-400,000 deaths a year associated with medical errors among hospital patients.
This analysis found:
(a) In 2013 this study estimated the rate of death from medical error of 251,454 a year using the studies reported since 1999.
(b) The authors believe this understates the true incidence of death due to medical error because the studies cited rely on errors extractable in documented health records and include only inpatient deaths.
Makary concluded: "Medical error is the third most common cause of death in the US"