Yearly Death Toll In Nation’s Hospitals Due To Medical Mistakes 30 Times That Of 9/11

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Today marks the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks where nearly 3,000 American lives were tragically lost within minutes. Multiply that number by 30 and that equals the amount of people who die every year in America’s hospitals as a result of preventable medical errors.

The horrific attacks that happened in New York exactly five years ago is an event in America’s history that will never be forgotten. But what about the estimated 98,000 who die in U.S. hospitals each year due to preventable medical errors?

“Every month, twice as many as those who died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks die in U.S. hospitals from preventable adverse events,” says The Other AMA ( To put this in clear perspective, a jumbo jet at its full capacity could crash six days out of the week for the entire year leaving no survivors, and it still would not amount to the total number of needless deaths in America’s healthcare system.

The types of errors that lead to this staggering number of deaths in hospitals, according to the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “To Error is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” include wrong-site surgery, mistaken identity, and restraint-related injuries or death, just to name a few.

Five years have passed since 9/11 and the steps taken in the aftermath have helped prevent another tragedy. In 2003, approximately $40 billion was spent on homeland security to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11. If even a fraction of this effort had been spent on reducing preventable medical errors in hospitals the outcome would be monumental. The reality is that there has been no national collective will to change the deadly statistics. According to the follow-up 2005 IOM report, there has been little change in reducing preventable hospital tragedies since the 1999 IOM report.

Some of the change being seen is in hospitals implementing a proven aviation-based program known as Crew Resource Management (CRM). CRM has been used in U.S. military and commercial airlines now for roughly thirty years. CRM teaches teams how to reduce preventable error by improving human communication and coordination.

The former fighter pilots of LifeWings Partners LLC have successfully adapted CRM for the healthcare industry. “Like flight crews, medical teams also work in technically advanced, time-restricted environments, that require a lot of communication and teamwork,” says Captain Stephen Harden, former Top Gun instructor and president of LifeWings. “No matter how much education and training a pilot or doctor has, human error is inevitable. CRM puts a system in place to catch those inevitable errors before they harm the patient.”

Several renowned hospitals, such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vassar Brothers Medical Center are embracing the LifeWings safety program.

“The effect that LifeWings has already had on our culture is significant. The employees feel empowered to speak up about their concerns,” says Sue Sullivan, Director of Risk Management and Patient Safety at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. Vanderbilt estimates the program has saved 200 patient lives that would have otherwise been lost.

About LifeWings Partners LLC

LifeWings Partners LLC was founded by a former U.S. Navy Top Gun instructor, commercial airline pilot, and two physicians who are former NASA astronauts. The firm specializes in applying aviation-based teamwork training and safety tools to help healthcare facilities save patients’ lives and reduce costs. LifeWings has helped over 45 facilities nationwide provide better care to their patients. Measurable results are found in all LifeWings’ initiatives, including one hospital’s “wrong surgery” rate went from 1 in 10,000 to 15,000 cases to 1 in 100,000. The firm also conducts Leadership Development workshops for healthcare executive teams.


Steve Harden, President

LifeWings Partners LLC


9198 Crestwyn Hills Drive

Memphis, TN 38125


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