Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., but it is not recognized as such. You will not hear about high numbers of people dying from medical mistakes because it is not an option for the cause of death on a death certificate.
Instead, according to Forbes, officials will list the physical condition that led to the death instead of stating that a medical error was the cause of death, which skews statistics.
The importance of having medical error as an option for the cause of death is that it informs those in the medical field. Currently, there are no real statistics that show the actual problem with mistakes in the medical field. Nobody really knows how many people die because someone messed up, and that is allowing more errors to occur.
When medical professionals are not aware of the problem, it makes it incredibly difficult to fix it. Those in positions of authority can easily overlook the fact that medical error is causing deaths at an alarming rate. In fact, CNBC states medical mistakes are only behind heart disease and cancer as a top killer in the country.
There are many things holding back the community from being able to report medical error rates properly. First, the coding for death certificates does not allow for an entry of medical error. The codes are old and need updating to reflect today’s needs. Second, it is not always easy to determine medical mistakes were at play in a death because medical professionals fear retribution if they report them, and not every person goes through an autopsy after death, which would allow for a proper diagnosis.
Fixing these issues could help to make it easier to get real statistics about deaths caused by medical errors.