WASHINGTON -- According to a recent report by
the Institute of Medicine, medical errors are responsible for at least
44,000 deaths each year in the United States and possibly as many as
98,000 each year.This means
that more people die from medical mistakes each year than from breast
cancer, highway accidents, or AIDS, the report noted.
report entitled "To Err is Human" was released by the
Institute of Medicine which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, a
private organization created by Congress to advise government on
"These stunningly high rates of medical errors resulting in deaths,
permanent disability, and unnecessary suffering are simply unacceptable
in a medical system that promises to 'do no harm,'" says William
Richardson, Chair of the Committee that wrote the report and President and
Chief Executive Officer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek,
to the report, medical mistakes occur not only in hospitals but in day
surgery and outpatient clinics, retail pharmacies, nursing homes, and home
care. The report states that medication errors alone contribute to
more than 7,000 deaths annually, exceeding those resulting from workplace
malpractice is responsible for up to 98,000 deaths per year in the
report cited deficiencies in a number of areas, from illegible writing in
medical records to the failure of physicians to regularly retest their
competence after receiving their license to practice.
The report claims that the health care industry is far behind other
high-risk industries, such as the airline industry, in its attention to ensuring
basic safety. To address
these alarming rates of medical mistakes, the report recommends dramatic
changes to the health care system to achieve a minimum goal of a fifty
(50%) percent reduction in medical mistakes within five (5) years.
On December 1, 1999, President Clinton called for
the health care community to work to eliminate these mistakes.
"We've got to work through how we can use technology, and how
we can maybe even slow some of the actions, to make sure that mistakes
like this aren't made," said Clinton.
"Any error that causes harm to a patient is one error to
many," said Dr. Nancy Dickey, past President of the American Medical