A new study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical negligence. This figure is considerably higher than that found in a 1999 Institute of Medicine Study, which estimated the number of deaths at approximately 98,000.

According to an examination of the study in Scientific American, the new estimates were made utilizing data from four recent studies of “adverse events”or medical negligence that occurred in hospitals. The studies looked at the medical records of 4,200 patients and found that serious adverse events occurred in as many as 21 percent of the cases, with 1.4 percent exhibiting “lethal adverse events”. Those percentages were then applied to the 34 million hospitalizations that took place in 2007, indicating a baseline figure of at least 210,000 deaths attributable to medical negligence.

If the figures are accurate, medical errors may be the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.

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