440,000 Patients are Killed Every Year by Preventable Medical Errors

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For Immediate Release: May 6, 2014

Contact: Katie Gommel
American Association for Justice

440,000 Patients are Killed Every Year by Preventable Medical Errors

Washington, DC—Quanisha underwent a routine surgery to remove a goiter in her neck at a hospital in Little Rock, Ark. But, twelve hours later, Quanisha began to develop a shortness of breath and felt her neck tighten. Even though she told nurses about her symptoms and how worried she was, her condition was not appropriately monitored or reported to a physician. Quanisha began having seizures, went into respiratory arrest, and suffered severe brain damage. It was later discovered that a preventable blood clot was to blame. Quanisha was left bed-ridden and totally dependent on her mother for care.

Quanisha’s story is a far too common occurrence. New research has confirmed that 440,000 people die every year because of preventable medical errors. That is equivalent to almost the entire population of Atlanta, Ga., dying from a medical error each year. Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States and cost our country tens of billions of dollars a year.

Despite this serious epidemic, corporate front groups are working hard in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures throughout the country to limit accountability and access to the civil justice system when patients are harmed or killed by medical negligence.

The civil justice system gives families of patients who have died or have been injured by medical negligence an avenue to seek accountability. It also provides an incentive to health care providers to improve patient care. Removing that accountability and incentive leaves people at risk for more injuries from negligent care.

To learn more about medical errors, visit www.takejusticeback.com/MedicalErrors.


The Facts

  • 440,000 patients die every year from preventable medical errors.  [Journal of Patient Safety]
  • Preventable medical errors cost our country tens of billions of dollars a year.  [Institute of Medicine]
  • One in three patients who are admitted to the hospital will experience a medical error.  [Health Affairs]
  • Studies of wrong site, wrong surgery, wrong patient procedures show that “never events” are happening at an alarming rate of up to 40 times per week in U.S. hospitals.  [Archives of Surgery]
  • Medical negligence lawsuits amount to just one-half of one percent of all health care costs.  [Congressional Budget Office]
  • Medical negligence cases represent well under 2 percent of all civil cases.  [National Center for State Courts]
  • Researchers at Harvard University found that 97 percent of cases were meritorious, concluding, “Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”  [New England Journal of Medicine]
As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org/newsroom.

Take Justice Back is a grassroots campaign designed to inform Americans that their legal rights are under attack. It engages, educates, and motivates activism to strengthen the civil justice system. Visit www.takejusticeback.com.

The American Association for Justice
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