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This month the British Medical Journal published a report by Johns Hopkins researchers showing that preventable medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming almost 250,000 lives annually. That’s 700 lives lost every day. These are frank medical errors, not the inevitable side effects of medically needed interventions.

This is shocking news. But the lack of a response from political leaders, the heads of major hospitals, insurance companies, medical societies and physician groups is inexplicable. Not one declaration of outrage – something that’s in no short supply these days – from Congress? Not one demand from the president or the candidates for greater accountability? No moonshot like the one focused on curing cancer?

More shocking is that the human toll is actually much worse than these findings suggest. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a seminal report, “To Err Is Human,” claiming up to 98,000 lives are lost every year due to medical mistakes. But, like the British Medical Journal study, those figures only count inpatient hospital deaths. A 2013 Journal of Patient Safety study found that about 400,000 Americans die every year from inpatient and outpatient preventable errors.

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