Medical Errors are a Leading Cause of Injury and Death

A recent study carried out by John Hopkins University analyzed medical death rates in United States over eight years.  The study concluded that over 250,000 deaths annually result from medical errors, which translates into 9.5 percent of deaths each year. This makes medical deaths the third leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer.

It has been suggested that the lack of reporting of medical errors means that this problem doesn’t get the attention and funding it deserves.  Researchers at John Hopkins warn that most medical errors are not due to bad doctors, instead they can be attributed to systemic problems such as poorly coordinated care, the underuse or absence of safety nets and other protocols, unnecessary variations in physician practices, a lack of accountability, and fragmented insurance networks.

A 2015 article published in the National Post titled “Inside Canada’s secret world of medical error: ‘There is a lot of lying, there’s a lot of cover-up” reports that the Canadian medical community similarly fails to record and report injuries and deaths resulting from medical error. A National Post investigation found that about 70,000 patients annually suffer a preventable and serious injury resulting from medical treatments. Also, a significant study published over 10 years ago estimated that about 23,000 Canadians die each year due to preventable ‘adverse events’ in hospitals.

A key flaw in the system, according to the Post, is that there is no medium for routinely recording and compiling medical errors for each province.  In many cases, errors are not even reported internally in hospitals.  The result of this failure to document errors means that there is little accountability within the medical community.  Even more troubling is that this system provides a diminished opportunity to learn from and correct mistakes. One exception is Manitoba, which implemented a system of transparency in recording medical mistakes over three years ago.   Some of the unfortunate errors that occurred in 2013 include the following.

  • A new mother experienced a heart attack after she was accidentally given a blood-pressure increasing medication, instead of the prescribed nausea antidote, after her caesarean section.
  • A patient who was identified at risk for blood clots, was neglected to be given anti-clotting medication after surgery, and subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack.
  • A screw from a broken clamp was left inside a woman during a surgical procedure, which necessitated a second operation to remove the screw.

Victims or families of victims have two years from the time they discovered their injury to file a medical malpractice claim for damages (with the exception of minors, who have until two years after they come of age).  However, sometimes a victim or their family does not learn that an injury or death was due to negligence until more than two years after the injury or death occurred.  Under the ‘discoverability principle’, the two year limitation period for filing a claim begins from the date when the claimant discovers the underlying facts for a cause of action or when the claimant should have discovered those facts by exercising reasonable diligence.  This principle allows victims who have experienced a loss an opportunity to identify who was responsible for their loss.  However, if there is a possibility of a claim due to medical malpractice or error, it is always a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible to avoid any difficulties with limitations.

If you or a loved one suffered injury due to a medical error or suspect medical malpractice may be responsible for your condition, call the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Kotak Law.  In a no-obligation initial consultation, we can assess the particulars of your case, answer your questions, and offer advice on your best legal options for obtaining owed compensation.


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Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader’s situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.