When you think of serious surgical mistakes and medical errors, there are plenty of horror stories floating around. Doctors don't monitor the blood flow properly and a patient goes blind. They don't count their surgical implements and one gets left inside the patient after the procedure. They don't check the records carefully enough and they amputate the wrong part of a person's body -- or they amputate the right body part from the wrong patient.
Any and all of these examples can have a dire impact on the rest of your life. But one thing that is important to consider is that some ramifications are even worse. Medical mistakes actually take a lot more lives annually than many people know.
Causes of death
The top two causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer. Over the years, they've flipped places on occasion, but they're consistently the reasons for the most amount of deaths. People get lung cancer after years of smoking or have heart attacks while shoveling snow or any number of other examples. We know the risks, but these two things still prove fatal for modern Americans.
In third place, a recent study suggests, are medical errors and mistakes. You read that correctly. Even though no one talks about them the way they do about heart attacks and cancer, medical mistakes are the No. 3 leading cause of death.
Can we know the total?
This study analyzed the data and came up with a bare minimum of 251,454 annual deaths stemming from hospital errors and medical mistakes. That's more than a million people every four years. It's a staggering number, and it has put these errors on the front page.
However, the experts who wrote out their findings think that we cannot even know the total, at least not with just this study. They think it's even higher. Reports said that "home and nursing home deaths" did not factor into that number at all.
As you know, these are also places where mistakes are common and often detrimental. A resident in a nursing home gets the wrong medication and has an allergic reaction. Elsewhere, another resident doesn't get critical medication at all, as the paperwork slips through the cracks, and the ramifications are catastrophic.
These things happen, even though they never should, and they do take lives. It is crucial to understand the risk, which is greater than many people ever dreamed, when a loved one passes away.
At the same time, these mistakes can come with a heavy financial burden. Family members need to know if they have a right to compensation to help cover the costs.