The Most Common Causes of Death in Hospitals and Healthcare Settings

Over 700,000 people die in hospitals every year. While not all these deaths are preventable, many are the result of errors in medical care. These wrongful deaths impact families, including spouses and children, for generations. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to provide an acceptable level of care for patients. While mistakes can happen in care, this doesn’t change the fact that families are entitled to financial compensation as a result.  

From hospital malpractice to misdiagnosis and more, these are the most common causes of death in the healthcare field. 

Sepsis: The Leading Cause of Death in Hospital Settings

Study after study has shown that sepsis—inflammation throughout the body as the result of it’s trying to fight off an infection in the bloodstream—is the leading cause of death in hospitals. Sepsis is particularly deadly because it causes the body to attack more than just the infection, often causing organ failure and other fatal complications. 

Sepsis leads to high-pressure medical treatment environments where medical resources can be misallocated, antibiotic doses can be delayed (or, in some cases, overused), and other complications can occur. The issue is compounded by a lack of “timely testing” for the condition. There is no “one test” for sepsis; doctors must combine the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and other test results (including bloodwork and urine) to make a diagnosis, all while ruling out other conditions like pneumonia, meningitis, strep throat, influenza, and possible skin infections. 

Sepsis kills more than 270,000 adults in the U.S. each year, mostly in emergency room settings, and it can leave survivors with severe lifelong disabilities. 

Diagnostic Errors: A Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

One of the most recent and comprehensive studies on diagnostic errors found that medical misdiagnoses— overlooking a disease or diagnosing it erroneously or late—lead to an estimated 371,000 deaths and 424,000 permanent disabilities every year. This is a massive issue that impacts over 800,000 people, some of whom will suffer serious harm, death, or become permanently disabled. 

While it seems high, the 800,000 number is only considered the tip of the iceberg by medical experts, who estimate that the number could be as high as a million due to cases that go unreported. In all, considering unreported and minor cases, there could be as many as 100 million people impacted by diagnostic errors in the U.S. every year. 

The causes of diagnostic errors include: 

  • Cognitive errors 
  • Mistaken symptoms 
  • Issues of bias 
  • Dismissal of symptoms 
  • Failures to request a second opinion 

According to the study, 15 diseases account for about half of the annual misdiagnoses, with five of them representing about 40 percent of all cases: 

  • Stroke 
  • Sepsis 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Venous thromboembolism 
  • Cancer 

Other Medical Errors

Outside of misdiagnosis, other medical errors are a leading cause of death in the U.S. Some studies show that more than 250,000 people die from medical errors every year. Other studies put the number as high as 440,000. Why is there such a large discrepancy? The fluctuation of estimates is attributed to the lack of clarity on death certificates and coroners’ reports, neither of which will generally note “medical errors” as the cause of death. Regardless of the exact count, one thing is clear: medical errors claim the lives of far too many people in the U.S. every year.  

Medical errors can include: 

  • Prescribing the wrong medications 
  • Incorrect prescription doses 
  • Incorrect application time of medicines 
  • Diagnostic errors or delays 
  • Preventable ailments while in medical care (wound infections, pressure ulcers, falls, healthcare-associated infections, and technical complications) 
  • Communication failures (failure to disseminate drug knowledge and patient information) 
  • Using outdated tests or treatments 

Your Rights When Someone Dies or is Catastrophically Injured

If your loved one has been wrongfully killed or catastrophically injured due to some type of medical malpractice, you are often entitled to financial compensation. At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, we’ve successfully recovered over $1 Billion for our medical malpractice clients. We help our clients understand their rights in medical malpractice cases and prepare to bring their case to court with aggressive representation. 

There are often time limits, complex investigations, and so much more involved in these types of cases, but we can help ease the process for you and our family. We cannot undo the damage that has been done to you, but we can help get justice for you and your loved ones.  

Get in touch with the medical malpractice and wrongful death experts at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow today.