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Medical Malpractice in Chicago and the Rising Rates of Hospital Error

October 15, 2013

Individuals seeking care at a hospital for themselves or for family members have likely heard frightening statistics about hospital mistakes that lead to death. The most widely quoted number of deaths due to medical errors comes from a 1999 Institute of Medicine report estimating that 98,000 people die annually due to preventable medical errors.

New evidence, however, suggests that there are significantly more people dying of medical mistakes than previously thought.  Malpractice lawyers in Chicago know that any patient seeking care at a hospital is at risk of suffering injury or death due to a mistake, and that choosing the right hospital is more important than ever amidst significant increases in the estimated number of patient deaths.

How Many People are Dying from Medical Mistakes?

Scientific American reports that, while the Institute of Medicine estimate was widely disputed for a long time, it has become accepted by the medical community and quoted extensively in news media. Yet, this number significantly underestimates the actual number of annual medical errors.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services estimated that poor care in hospitals was the cause of 180,000 deaths just among Medicare patients. Given that this data does not include the entire population, it is reasonable to conclude that even more people are dying because of poor medical care.

A study in the Journal of Patient Safety provides some insight into just how many more people are losing their lives because of hospital error. The new estimates were developed by a toxicologist at NASA’s Space Center and indicate that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who visit a hospital suffer preventable harm that is a contributing factor in their death.

Although the American Hospital Association has called these new numbers into question and believes the number is closer to the 98,000 estimate, three prominent patient safety research experts reviewed the new data and said that the research methods and findings were sound.

If those numbers are correct, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, following only heart disease and cancer.

Choosing a Hospital to Reduce the Risk of Medical Mistakes

Medical mistakes can happen in even the best of hospitals. However, there are certain steps a patient can take to try to reduce the chances of becoming the victim of a mistake. Consumer Reports provides tips to help patients find a good hospital in their area, including:

  • Asking your primary care doctor to recommend a surgeon.
  • Learning as much as possible about the doctors in the hospital you are considering to provide care.
  • Talking with any prospective surgeons about their experience and past results.
  • Taking advantage of resources including Hospital Compare, which provides a comparison of hospitals based on patient experience and surveys conducted by the government.

By researching the hospitals in your area before admission is necessary, you have a greater chance of being admitted to a hospital that can provide you with the quality healthcare you require.

Malpractice lawyers in Chicago can help with hospital error claims. Contact Coplan + Crane at 800-394-6002 for a free case evaluation or visit our Oak Park office.