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Report: Fatal medical errors leading cause of American deaths

It might be surprising to people in New Jersey, and somewhat shocking even, to hear that fatal medical mistakes might rank among the leading causes of death in the United States, behind only cancer and heart disease. This claim is the conclusion of a report from the last two years, which was at the time of its release summarized by some media outlets.

The report, which reviewed the statistics available at the time, concluded that at least 250,000 deaths in the United States annually could be attributed to some kind of error in medical care. The authors of the report noted that since there is little formal tracking of fatal errors, it was hard for them to get a precise trail of data. Still, they were able to estimate their 250,000 number from a review of medical records and other information that they did have

It is important to note that not every medical error is necessarily a case of medical malpractice. In some cases, no doctor could be held legally responsible for the death of a patient because the problem that ultimately killed the patient started with something like a defective or inadequate computer program.

Still, 250,000 deaths related to medical mistakes each year is an unacceptably high number. While there are lots of ways to improve the practice of medicine and, hopefully, bring this number down, one way to make sure doctors and others act responsibly is for victims' families to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor if the doctor's error contributed to the death of the family's loved one. Doing so not only can help a family seek compensation for their loss, but it can also send a message to doctors to be more careful.

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