Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have highlighted a major cause of death in the United States that doesn’t show up on death certificates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t include this cause of death in its annual list of how people die in this country. Shockingly, the researchers who conducted the 2016 study found that fatal medical errors are so prevalent that they should rank as the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. The Johns Hopkins physicians are advocating for updated criteria for classifying deaths on death certificates, and a change in how the CDC compiles its statistics.
What you don't know can kill you:
- While analyzing death rate data collected between 2000 and 2008, the researchers calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error -- equal to 9.5 percent of all U.S. deaths.
- The CDC's annual mortality statistics count only the "underlying cause of death," defined as the condition that led the person to seek treatment.
- Potentially fatal medical mistakes range from surgical complications that go unrecognized to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications that patients receive in hospitals.