Friday’s Question: What Is The Racial Breakdown Of Medical Errors? Day 19

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Today, I attempted another way to find out about racial disparities in medical errors. I searched other surveillance reports, namely vital statistics/records, to see if I could capture the racial and ethnic breakdown of medical errors. Are Black patients bearing the brunt of medical errors associated with death and disability? Are hospitals a threat to our health?

Since medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., I expected to find it listed in the vital record data from Massachusetts. It was not. In MA, injuries, the fourth leading cause of death, replaced medical errors as the third leading cause.

I looked at vital record data from Texas. It wasn’t easy to find as it was for Massachusetts. Again medical errors were not listed as the third leading cause of death.  I looked at the National Vital Statistic System, and it was easier to find the information if I searched each State.  Public data should not be that difficult to access.

Vital statistics record the cause of death in each State. Yet, it has no information about the third leading cause of death–medical errors. That serves the purpose of concealing the third leading cause of death in the USA. I recognize the challenges in reporting medical errors since it is not a diagnosis, but perhaps it should be. It is paramount that more is known about the demographics of medical errors before hospitals become death sentences for vulnerable groups.

The public has little to no information about who dies from medical errors. Are women more likely to die from medical errors or men? Or does it matter? Which racial groups are at higher risk for medical errors?  ATM, it’s unclear. This information is vital to our survival.

Without health, you cannot live, let alone the American Dream. It’s a public health crisis when the risk of death at a hospital is greater than the injury or pneumonia that brought you to the hospital.


Massachusetts Deaths 2017

Texas Health Data:  Deaths (2006-2017)

The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS)



Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

1 thought on “Friday’s Question: What Is The Racial Breakdown Of Medical Errors? Day 19

  1. Texas Demographics:
    White: 73.97% Black or African American: 12.13% Other race: 5.82% Asian: 4.80%

    What ethnic group is missing? Hispanics. They comprise 39% of the population in Texas. Whites could not be 74% unless white Hispanics became white. I wonder if that is the case around the country.

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