When people go to the hospital, they do it because they trust the knowledge and aid of an attending physician and hospital staff. Sometimes people visit the hospital in a life-threatening situation and other times it is due to treatment that is less life threatening. But what if people are putting themselves in more danger by being treated at the hospital? A recent study conducted by the Journal of Patient Safety has assessed the correlations between patient harm and hospital care.

Each year, the study estimated that anywhere between 210,000 and 440,000 people suffer from some type of preventable harm during their visit to the hospital. This means thousands of patients are treated incorrectly, which can be a contributing factor in their death. This would make medical errors the third-leading medical cause of death in the United States. It follows heart disease and cancer.

The reason there is such a large gap in the amount of mistreated patients is because it is very difficult to determine each medical error. This is because the medical error could come in the form of misdiagnosis or it could stem from a doctor’s failure to act. Because these errors aren’t always detected, it is difficult to determine these in large-scale estimates.

Several studies have attempted to study medical errors in a way that is measurable and credible by today’s standards. These numbers are up for interpretation. However, the fact that medical errors and misdiagnoses happen is not up for debate on any side of the argument. It comes down to how many people are realistically affected in the United States every year. According to these numbers, the amount of people affected is evidence of a substantial problem in the medical community. Anyone who is affected by medical malpractice should be aware of their legal rights.

Source: Journal of Patient Safety, “A New Evidence-based estimate of patient harms associate with hospital care,” John T. James, Accessed Jan. 26, 2015