A new study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety and described in Scientific American that says the numbers caused by medical errors in U.S. Hospitals may be much higher than earlier estimates suggest. The report estimates that in 2014 between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. Dr. Lucian Leape, a Harvard pediatrician who is referred to the "father of patient safety," was on the committee that wrote the "To Err Is Human" report which estimated 98,000 such deaths. Dr. Leape told ProPublica that he has confidence in the new estimate. Members of the Institute of Medicine committee knew at the time that their estimate of medical errors was low, Leape said. "It was based on a rather crude method compared to what we do now," Leape said, adding medicine has become much more complex in recent decades, which leads to more mistakes, he said.
The new estimates were developed by John T. James, a toxicologist at NASA's space center in Houston who runs an advocacy organization called Patient Safety America James has also written a book about the death of his 19-year-old son after what James maintains was negligent hospital care.
Dr.. David Classen, one of the leading developers of the Global Trigger Tool, said the James study is a sound use of the tool and a "great contribution." Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital whose book "Unaccountable"calls for greater transparency in health care, said the James estimate shows that eliminating medical errors must become a national priority. Dr. Leape, Dr. Classen and Dr. Makary all said it's time to stop citing the 98,000 number cited in the 2001 IOM report. . Read the Scientific American story by Marshall Allen and ProPublica.