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Study Showing Medical Error as Third Leading Cause of Death Underscores Need for Improved Safety and Accountability

Healthcare Industry, Policymakers Have Largely Failed to Address Problem

May 05,2016

Washington, DC— The following is a statement from American Association for Justice President Larry Tawwater on the BMJ’s publication of a study on Tuesday estimating that 251,000 individuals are killed by medical errors in the United States every year:

"In 1999, the Institute of Medicine sounded the alarm when it found that as many as 98,000 Americans are killed each year by medical errors. The Institute hoped that by highlighting the number of preventable deaths occurring each year, the crisis would be addressed and deaths would go down. They didn’t. In fact, a new study published in the BMJ, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, estimates that medical errors now claim 251,000 lives annually. Policymakers have largely failed to respond to this crisis, and in many states have actually weakened accountability for the healthcare industry rather than addressing the underlying problem.

"Medical errors are causing the same number of deaths that would occur if five 737 jets crashed every day. We wouldn’t tolerate that from the airline industry and we shouldn’t tolerate it from the healthcare industry, either. Not only do these deadly errors occur, they are investigated in secret by the healthcare industry and the results are never revealed to the public or even to the family of the person killed. This week’s study demonstrates the urgent need for transparent investigations and accountability. Policymakers must start focusing less on protecting the healthcare industry and focusing more on protecting patients. Lives depend on it."


Ben Somberg
Phone: 202-965-6645