The Toll Of Preventable Errors: How Many Dead Patients?

March 14, 2012

March 9th, 2012 by Michael Millenson Here’s a quiz for Patient Safety Awareness Week (and after): The number of Americans who die annually from preventable medical errors is: A) 44,000-98,000, according to the Institute of Medicine; B) None, thanks to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “100,000 Lives Campaign”;  C) 90,000;  D) No one’s really counting. 

The correct answer is, “D,” but I confess it’s a trick question. With a slight twist in wording, the right answer could also be “C,” from an as-yet-unpublished new estimate with a unique methodology. (More below.) The main point of this quiz, however, is to explore what we actually know about the toll taken by medical mistakes and to dispel some of the confusion about the magnitude of harm.  Read more