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Medical mistakes among top three causes of death in the U.S.

Over the course of the last century, the medical field has made leaps and bounds when it comes to treatment, technological advances and all-around patient care. Even with these advances, medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease and cancer take the top two places, respectively.

A recent study estimates that approximately 10 percent of deaths across the country are due to improper patient care, medical mistakes and malpractice. Researchers believe the reason for this high rate is that there is not a system in place to track and study medical errors and formulate sufficient protections to guard against future incidents.

Almost 20 years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report that indicated that medical mistakes are an extremely common occurrence in the health care industry. At the time, the study estimated that anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 people pass away in hospitals every year. At the time, the researchers suggested that these numbers were actually low and came directly from information that was outdated.

More recent studies pushed the death toll much higher. In 2011, the medical journal, Health Affairs, suggested that approximately 1 percent of hospital patients that die annually, do so because of medical mistakes. This accounts for almost 400,000 deaths as opposed to the earlier estimate of a maximum of 98,000.

The team from Johns Hopkins that released the most recent report based it on four studies that covered this data from 2000 to 2008. With the information in these studies, the researchers calculated a mean death rate for medical mistakes that occur in hospitals across the United States. They then used this calculation to determine that of the 35 million patients admitted to hospitals in 2013, 251,454 died because of medical errors.

Since the studies that the researchers analyzed did not include data from outpatient clinics, nursing facilities or other medical providers outside of inpatient hospitals, they concluded that the figure is probably higher. At the moment, the researchers are exploring ways to better track medical mistakes in the hope that a system can be implemented to reduce these numbers.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in a Baltimore area hospital, it is important to remember that you still have rights and options. You may be able to take legal action against the doctor or hospital that was responsible for the treatment.