The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US is one of those slasher statistics that just won’t die. This time around STAT News gave space to Michael Saks and Stephan Landsman to parrot that claim credulously in the service of selling their book.
The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US has always rested on very shaky evidence; yet it’s become common wisdom that is cited as though everyone accepts it. But if estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 deaths due to medical error are way too high, what is the real number? A study published last month suggests that it’s almost certainly a lot lower and has been modestly decreasing since 1990.