When Donna Helen Crisp, a 59-year-old nursing professor, entered a North Carolina teaching hospital for a routine hysterectomy in 2007, she expected to come home the next day. Instead, Crisp spent weeks in a coma and underwent five surgeries to correct a near-fatal cascade of medical errors that left her with permanent injuries

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It was a fourth of July weekend but Sharon O’ Brien, an intensive care physician, was not celebrating. A medical error earlier landed a patient in her ICU. The patient eventually died — and she had to decide what to tell the patient’s family

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When I started out as a doctor in 1999, the IOM published a blockbuster report that declared that up to 98,000 people were dying in US hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors. Just a few months ago, a study in the BMJ declared that number has now risen to more than 250,000, making preventable medical errors in hospitals the third-largest cause of death in the country in 2013

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A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States — and highlights how shortcomings in tracking vital statistics may hinder research and keep the problem out of the public eye

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