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November 1, 2000

How Many Deaths Are Due to Medical Errors?

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Executive Deputy EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2000;284(17):2187. doi:10.1001/jama.284.17.2184

To the Editor: Dr McDonald and colleagues1 and Dr Leape2 debated the validity of the data that formed the basis of the conclusions and recommendations of the IOM report on medical errors.3 McDonald et al appropriately highlight methodological flaws intrinsic to the prior studies by Leape and others.4,5 It would be unfortunate, however, to allow the assertion that the magnitude of the problem of medical errors (preventable or otherwise) is grossly exaggerated to cloud the message and blunt the impact of the IOM report. Whether annual mortality is 10,000 or 100,000, medical errors are a serious public health problem.