Medical Errors Kill Five People Per Minute, 2.6 Million People Every Year

Medical Errors Kill Five People Per Minute, 2.6 Million People Every Year

A new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.6 million people die annually in low-and middle-income countries from medical errors, and that most of those deaths are related to misdiagnosis and administration of pharmaceutical products. According to the WHO, “Four out of every ten patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory health care. The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines.”1 2

The WHO believes that the impact of the harm to victims of these mistakes made by doctors and other health care providers leads to financial losses of trillions of dollars.

“Medication errors alone cost an estimated US$42 billion annually. Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients resulting in 1 million deaths during or immediately after surgery annually,” notes the WHO.1 2

“No one should be harmed while receiving health care. And yet globally, at least 5 patients die every minute because of unsafe care,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MD. “We need a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and creates a blame-free environment where health workers are empowered and trained to reduce errors.”1 2

The WHO report comes on the heels of an international study, which contained information on 337,025 patients (including in the United States) and was led by clinical psychologist Maria Panagioti, PhD of the University of Manchester, England. Titled “Prevalence, severity, and nature of preventable patient harm across medical care settings: systematic review and meta-analysis” and published in The BMJ on July 17, 2019, that study found one in 10 patients suffered harm as a result of their medical care and 12 percent of those cases led to permanent disability or death.3 4

“Our study finds that most harm relates to medication, and this is one core area that preventative strategies could focus on,” Dr. Panagioti said. Nearly half of the incidents of harm involved drugs and other therapies.3 4

Internist Albert Wu, MD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health confirms that Dr. Panagioti’s study is among the largest studies ever done on the “frequency and severity of patient harm” and that it offers “evidence that these harms occur in all medical settings.”3 4

A 2016 study published in The BMJ identified medical error as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The study, which was co-authored by Martin Makary, MD and research fellow Michael Daniel of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, determined that medical errors accounted for about 251,000 deaths every year in the U.S., which made medical error-related deaths the third leading cause of death surpassed only by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699).5

“We are burying a population the size of Miami every year from medical errors that can be prevented,” said Leah Binder, CEO of the health care watchdog organization The Leapfrog Group.


References:

1 Press Release. WHO calls for urgent action to reduce patient harm in healthcare. World Health Organization Sept. 13, 2019.
2 Ankel S. Five patients die every minute from incorrect medical treatment, according to the World Health Organization. Business Insider Sept. 16, 2019.
3 Panagioti M, Khan K, Keers RN, Abuzour A, Phipps D, Kontopantelis E, Bower P, Campbell S, Haneef R, Avery AJ, Ashcroft DM. Prevalence, severity, and nature of preventable patient harm across medical care settings: systematic review and meta-analysis. The BMJ July 17, 2019.
4 Carroll L. Medical mistakes harm more than 1 in 10 patients. Many are preventable. NBC News July 18, 2019.
5 Cáceres M. Study: Medical Error is the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. The Vaccine Reaction May 6, 2016.

8 Responses to "Medical Errors Kill Five People Per Minute, 2.6 Million People Every Year"

  1. Michael   November 24, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Great article – thank you.

    Vaccine injuries reported through VAERS must be a portion of the subject injuries?

    but VAERS is estimated to include less than 10% of total vaccine injuries. There are many systemic reasons why VAERS will never capture more of a share of these injuries not the least of which is that if the 10% reported caused 4B in payouts by our federal government to indemnify the pharmaceutical companies then to indemnify all injuries would cost at least 40B and of course we just don’t have that – using it to build border walls and other such things.

    Reply
    • Greg Hill   November 30, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Unfortunately, even if all of the injuries and deaths that did get reported to VAERS and were actually compensated for (about a third of them) are included in the statistics, they almost certainly were still not counted as “medical error” as long they were “properly administered” according to the CDC’s recommended schedule. It’s considered an “error” only if the doctor deviated in some way that differs from what is officially designated as “best medical practice.”

      Reply
  2. Miko   November 24, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Makes sense in third world countries. What’s the numbers in the USA?

    Reply
    • Leisa   November 25, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Miko, it’s in the second to last paragraph of the article.

      “A 2016 study published in The BMJ identified medical error as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The study, which was co-authored by Martin Makary, MD and research fellow Michael Daniel of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, determined that medical errors accounted for about 251,000 deaths every year in the U.S., which made medical error-related deaths the third leading cause of death surpassed only by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699).5”

      Reply
  3. Mary   November 24, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    It is the purchasers of prescriptions who pay the costs for VAERS.

    The pharmaceuticals get off Scott free even if you die.

    Reply
  4. Louise Gallagher   November 24, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    I am not surprised at this info but I am surprised that a liberal organization as WHO would report it! This is a good reason for trying to avoid the medical system when you can. I am very leery about our care now and try to be alert when I do need their assistance.

    Reply
  5. Ixchel Odier   November 25, 2019 at 8:03 am

    This makes perfect sense! I’ve been doing a lot of research on medical malpractice and have found that most medical errors today are actually the result of intentional harm from medical “professionals” knowingly performing unnecessary procedures on poor, helpless victims simply for the money. A good example of this is corporate dentistry and vaccine injuries. Sadly, children are the most suspectible and die instantly. This honestly needs to stop. It’s obvious that the government is encouraging this practice because I don’t see them doing anything to actually stop this. Sad!

    Reply
  6. Nathalie   November 25, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Did the report actually also look at how vaccines enter in the equation? Last night I was watching an old movie “the last king of Scotland” based on true events around dictator Idi Amin in Uganda. In the mist of all the issues in that country at the time, you see that young Scottish doctor going around villages vaccinating children (most likely against things they do not need). How often is that happen still!? how many widespread vaccination around under develop countries are the cause of additional mortality and morbidity when the money spent could go to ensuring proper nutrition and sanitation? and yes, as someone asked earlier, where is the US in this report? I am personally avoiding “conventional medicine” (including veterinarian- oh yes there are big issues as well for the care of our pets) like the the plague.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.