Medical Error: The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US – Centre for Research on Globalization
A literature review by James estimated preventable adverse events using a weighted analysis and described an incidence range of 210 000-400 000 deaths a year associated with medical errors among hospital patients. We calculated a mean rate of death from medical error of 251 454 a year using the studies reported since the 1999 IOM report and extrapolating to the total number of US hospital admissions in 2013. We 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. Although the assumptions made in extrapolating study data to the broader US population may limit the accuracy of our figure, the absence of national data highlights the need for systematic measurement of the problem. Comparing our estimate to CDC rankings suggests that medical error is the third most common cause of death in the US (fig 1).