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With so much focus on patient safety and quality care over the last several years, why do thousands of people die every year due to medical errors? 

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine¹ published “To Err Is Human,” which reported that an estimated 98,000 people die every year due to avoidable medical errors.  This began a patient safety movement that is still a long way from where it should be. In fact, we seem to be going in the wrong direction.

It seems that every time a study is conducted, the numbers become more alarming.  A new study, developed by John T. James (Chief Scientist of Space Toxicology, NASAJohnsonSpaceCenter) who runs the advocacy organization, Patient Safety America, shows the estimate to be at least 210,000.  The actual number may be upward of 400,000 premature deaths per year as a result of preventable harm to patients.  It is a huge concern that no one really knows for how many preventative deaths happen for these reasons, each year.  There has never been an actual count of how many patients experience preventable harm, partially because of inaccuracies in medical records and the reluctance/refusal of some providers to report mistakes.

Although there has been considerable attention given in recent years to methods of eliminating medical errors and enhancing patient safety, far too many patients are being harmed due to medical errors.  This epidemic must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed.

When it comes to preventing medical errors, hospitals everywhere face a major dilemma. Everyone agrees that reporting problems is the first step to preventing others from happening, but few put that belief into practice and submit error reports when something goes wrong. Some of the most common errors are:

  • failure to implement a standardized checklist for common procedures
  • failure to completely evaluate a patient’s medical history
  • failure to conduct a physical exam and/or perform the necessary tests
  • failure to record a complete summary of treatment
  • lack of patient care coordination and teamwork

While estimates bring awareness and research dollars to a major public health problem that persists despite decades of improvement efforts, reducing preventable medical errors should be a concern to everyone.  Reporting problems is the first step to preventing others from happening, but few put that belief into practice and submit error reports when something goes wrong. We can only fix a system if we acknowledge what is wrong. A process as simple as standardized checklists for common procedures can be enough to minimize the risk of bad judgment.

By identifying the root problem, we not only reduce medical errors, but also reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits.  In fact, these concerns will be addressed under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.  Obamacare was introduced with the very notion of not only reducing costs for the system, but improving the quality of care.  A big part of the savings will come from reducing medical errors because the system will feature national reporting.  The Obama Administration says the initiative will bring together leaders of major hospitals, employers, physicians, nurses, and patient advocates along with state and federal governments in a shared effort to improve the quality of care and patient safety, reduce costs, and eliminate preventable errors.  Yet, those same politicians who support anti-patient measures like “tort reform” are now seeking the repeal the pro-patient Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare already passed by both houses of Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) creates a new Patient’s Bill of Rights that protects you, the people.  It will provide you with more health insurance choices and better access to care.  In the end, public pressure may be the means to stop this ridiculous deadlock in Congress.  The time to act is now!  Despite what Congress might think, you are ultimately the decision makers by way of your vote.  Voice your opinion; that is how things change.  If not, we will all pay the consequences.

¹ The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to the nation concerning health.  Established in 1970, the IOM is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Nearly 150 years later, the National Academy of Sciences has expanded into what is collectively known as the National Academies, which comprises the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council, and the IOM.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


  1. Gravatar for jc

    So Mark Bello now supports Obamacare! What a disaster! Has anyone on this site tried to enroll on the health care exchanges? After months of telling millions people of the wonders of Obamacare, the computerized sign up system cannot handle the load. Kinda like 1-800-FLOWERS being caught off guard by Valentine's Day! This is the system that Mark Bello promotes, because he knows that harried hurried doctors are more prone to make mistakes, and when they do, well, Mark Bello will be there to help, and to fill his pockets with gold! Just to give you an example of Obamacare ineffieciencies is this small example. Obamacare hired a bunch of "navigators" to help people sign up for Obamacare. Well, the Ohio General Assembly said that you had to register with the Ohio Dept. of Insurance to become a "navigator" This was a smart decision because people were going to be giving these "navigators" sensitive information like financial data and social security numbers and health records - -so you don't want felons as "navigators". So to date, how many "navigators" have signed up in Ohio? 5 - - -that is right - - -5 "navigators" have signed up in Ohio to service a population of 11-12 million people. Go going Mark, no wonder you support this system and are against tort reform.

  2. Gravatar for Jake

    As usual, Dr. Cox, your comments have nothing to do with the core message of Mr. Bello's post. Whether or not the Affordable Care Act needs some "fixes", it IS the law of the land. Holding vital government funding hostage because you don't like an existing law, is unpatriotic, especially when you are someone who has taken an oath to uphold the laws of the United States of America. Having said that, the core message here is that an independent, non-profit, health advocacy agency is saying that as many as 400,000 preventable deaths occur each year because of medical errors and you still cling to this notion that the doctors who commit these errors should get a financial bailout (tort reform) from the government. Please retire or, at least, stay in Ohio; I would not want a doctor who does not believe in personal responsibility for preventable errors treating me or any of my family members.

  3. Gravatar for Mark Bello

    Jake: Thanks for the kind words. You are correct, of course. I don't think Doctor Cox ever really reads what I write. He looks for buzz words in an article and then launches into his usual, very tired,attacks on the writer. For example, I don't handle Medical Malpractice lawsuits; I have told him this time and time again, yet he continues to suggest that my anti-tort reform stance is based on a desire to "line my pockets". It is a fact that I support the civil justice system and the jury system, without special favors to the medical profession. We have a 7th Amendment that guarantees that right. I am pro-justice, without restriction. I have seen too many families, devastated by injury and disability, have their recoveries limited by tort reform, insurance policy limits, financial shenanigans, legal manipulation, error cover-up and conspiracy, frivolous defenses. Devastating consequences occur and insurance companies, professionals, and Goliath corporations engage in gamesmanship to avoid paying what they should when they should. They refuse to admit when they are wrong, refuse to, simply, apologize when appropriate, then blame the victims and their lawyers. These are the issues that motivate my writing, not my pocketbook. I can make a nice living with or without tort reform. Money is not a driving force for me, but it certainly is for a helpless, disabled victim.

    The system isn't perfect; I have acknowledged that many times. But to continue to provide additional bailouts to wrongdoers and to call the victims lawsuit abusers is an abysmal way to resolve whatever imperfections exist. I have said that innocent doctors shouldn't be sued or pursued. When has Cox ever admitted that bad doctors who make mistakes should be held fully accountable? To hear him, one would believe that the medical profession never makes a mistake and every lawsuit filed against a doctor is a phony, money-making scheme. Well, then why do independent scientists say that 400,000 people per year die from medical errors? I didn't say it; The unbiased Institute of Medicine did.

    Dr. Cox likes to quote trial statistics, but those so-called statistics ignore cases that have settled pre-trial and/or pre-suit, ignore cases where malpractice was covered up, and come from malpractice insurance carriers who are boasting about their records to prospective policy purchasers. "We sure pulled the wool over their eyes" is not the justice I am seeking for either victim or doctor.

    Dr. Cox has obviously had some bad experiences with the medical-legal system. I'm sure his vicitms were just as happy with the experience as he was. He won't tell us what he did that got him sued. He won't tell us the condition of the victims. He won't tell us what his defense strategy was and what lengths he and his legal team went to to "win" at all cost. He simply blames the lawyers and lobbies for a system where doctors judge other doctors, where the foxes guards the hen house. His comments read as "rants" to me; I am sincerely hopeful that the vast majority of readers judge the quality and roots of my writing and weigh them against the quality and roots of his comments. If they do so, I am certain that they will come to the conclusion that victimizing the victim a second time so that a negligent doctor can save a few bucks on his malpractice insurance is not "justice". Thanks again for your comment.

  4. Gravatar for jc

    Well Jake, plaintiff attorneys have an 85% failure rate at trial and an 80% failure rate pre-trial. So my hope is that all the plaintiff attorneys will be forced into retirement permanently so that they will no longer be able to victimize poor injured patients. Mark Bello knows that I have strong arguments so he wants to attack me instead of my arguments. But I ask you, if plaintiff attorneys lose 80-85% of the time to defendant doctors, who really are the innocent victims of medical malpractice? With a record like that, who really is asking for an entitlement, plaintiff attorneys or doctors? Medical courts could do a much better job, in less time, at less cost. With Obamacare in our future, can medical courts be far behind?

  5. Gravatar for jc

    There goes Mark Bello again! He acts as if his only interest is in seeing justice done and that he has no financial stake in these arguments. Well, Mark, I am arguing for my self interest and so are you! You run a lawsuit financial bank and bankroll malpractice litigation. It is in your financial interest to promote and protect the current medical legal system because you loan money to the plaintiff at high interest rates. The only way you can really make money in that industry is if you take slam dunk malpractice cases that are obviously going to pay off big. I notice that you did not bankroll Jessica's case probably because it was too risky. I point this out because your obvious interest is in prolonging litigation making the victims of this system (innocent doctors and patients) suffer. We have arbitration in the securities industry and investors, who have been harmed win 50% of the time. That is significantly better than our medical malpractice system where victims win about 15% of the time at trial and the plaintiff attorney takes the total award half of the time. Never did I say guilty docs should not be held accountable. I have said that medical courts could be constructed to make the system more efficient, benefiting docs and patients, but not plaintiff attorneys.

  6. Gravatar for Mark Bello

    Dr. Cox: There YOU go again. Do you carefully read anything? Yes, I have a company that finances and, sometimes, profits from litigation. However, the financial limits of my service are small and will fit comfortably in any size case, including those effected by limits or caps. TORT REFORM CAPS HAVE NO EFFECT ON MY BUSINESS. I fund within the limits the case. Tort reformed cases are much like funding auto accident cases within insurance policy limits. I do it all the time. These issues have NO economic impact on me or my company. Unlike you, I oppose tort reform for two very simpIe reasons: It's wrong; it's unconstitutional. I strongly believe that the constitution guarantees a right to jury trial and that the 7th Amendment protects that right in civil cases. You can scream and yell and try to pretend that there is some "profit motive" for my anti tort reform position, but you would be wrong. I am all about justice. That's why I stated that innocent doctors should not be made to pay damages; they should stand up and prove their innocence in court. You claim that they do that a majority of the time, but that's not enough for you, you still want the government bail out. "Justice, Justice, Shalt Thou Pursue", on a level playing field. A level playing field must take the financial disparity between most plaintiffs and most defendants into account. Otherwise, no special favors for either side. Tort reform is a "special favor" for political contributions by insurance companies, big tobacco, big pharma, and the medical profession. You guys don't need political handouts unless you're guilty and have to pay large damages. And that's the rub for you. For you, it comes down to money and limitations on damages, regardless of how bad your conduct is. Kill someone? You don't want to pay. Botch a surgery? You don't want to pay. Leave a sponge inside a patient? You don't want to pay. Cut off the wrong limb? You don't want to pay. You have an economic interest in making these outrageous arguments and I, simply, don't. I am tired of watching wealthy business people lobby for restrictions on recoveries for the simple, often penniless, people that they injury maim and kill. These bailouts allow them to pay pennies on the dollar, yet they (you) still whine about it. Man up, Cox!

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