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Dying By The Numbers

By: Russell T. Golla, President, Wisconsin Association For Justice

There is a scene in the 1970’s movie classic, Network, when TV anchorman Howard Beale finally snaps. “I’m a human being” (expletive deleted) rants Beale, “my life has value.”

Value, yes, but God help us if we get sick. A new study says medical errors are the third leading cause of death, some 250,000 annually, in the United States. As we understand this new study, it does not include deaths from Healthcare or Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) which are estimated to add another 100,000 to this total.  That’s 959 deaths per day that can be attributed to the people and institutions we trust to take care of us.

Health care providers, like everyone else, are human and will act carelessly from time to time. But when the number of deaths connected to medical “errors” – a euphemistic reference to carelessness or negligence, is only eclipsed by cancer and heart disease, it is a crisis of care.

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New Report - Medical Errors Are Killing Us

At first the report reads like a gigantic typo - a new medical study says medical errors are killing 251,000 of us every year. That would make medical errors the third leading cause of death in the nation claiming almost 700 lives a day...more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer's.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine paints a frightening picture of health care in the US. The study points to everything from bad doctors to communications breakdowns when a patient may be moved from one department to another.

Here in Wisconsin, the problem is compounded by a legal system that favors the medical community at the expense of a patient's legal rights. Under Wisconsin law, it is almost impossible for a victim to go to court if they think they've been hurt by a medical mistake. You can click on this link to a WCLO-AM radio interview with former WAJ President, Dan Rottier, on why the study matters for Wisconsin.

Follow this link to an interview with the former President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, Chris Stombaugh, on why the state's malpractice law is so sadly lacking.

If you are one-of-the-ten cases that ever get to court, be prepared for an uphill battle. Plaintiffs win about 10% of the cases. And if you did win, Wisconsin consistently ranks at the bottom in settlements.