Home » Why Medical Errors are the 3rd Leading Cause of Death in United States and How to Reduce Them

Why Medical Errors are the 3rd Leading Cause of Death in United States and How to Reduce Them

by Melissa Bell
2 minutes read


It is estimated that more than 250,000 Americans will die in 2017 as a result of their medical treatments:

  • More than 13,000 deaths predicted due to unnecessary surgery;
  • More than 8,000 deaths due to medication errors in hospitals;
  • More than 21,000 deaths due to other errors in hospitals;
  • More than 80,000 deaths due to infections in hospitals;
  • More than 108,000 deaths due to negative effects of drugs.

A study by Johns Hopkins patient safety experts published in the BMJ in 2016 ranks medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer. Analyzing medical death rate data over an 8-year period, the research concluded that more than 251,000 deaths per year are due to medical error, which surpasses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s third leading cause of death—respiratory disease, which kills close to 150,000 people per year.

The analysis shows that medical errors in hospitals and other health-care facilities are incredibly common and have now become the third-leading cause of death — claiming more lives every year than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s. The “errors” include everything from bad doctors to systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.

We have reached a point where people are dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care. Is this the right approach and what can we do to bring a positive change? Can we learn something from other countries and their health systems? Japan has the healthiest population among the industrialized nations and uses its technology solely for diagnostic purposes, unlike the U.S. which relies on sophisticated technology and professional personnel for medical treatment. Furthermore, in Japan, family members, rather than hospital staff, are involved in caring for the patients.

All this testifies to the dire need for Americans to alter their philosophical approach towards health and treatment. Find out more with the following infographic:



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