The Third Leading Cause of Death May Surprise You

by | Apr 1, 2022


Charlie Munger is quoted as saying, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.” I guess Charlie should avoid the hospital given that’s where about 68% of Americans die.

Based on the causes of death listed on death certificates, the top three causes of death are (1) heart disease, (2) cancer, and (3) chronic respiratory disease. But researchers at Johns Hopkins dug further into the data and estimate that another cause of death not reported on death certificates is actually number three: medical errors.

The Johns Hopkins researchers found that about 10% of all deaths are due to mistakes — that’s about 250,000 deaths a year. (But, note that some experts think this estimate is too high and that medical errors account for 2-5% of deaths — which is still a lot.)

“The researchers caution that most medical errors aren’t due to inherently bad doctors, and that reporting these errors shouldn’t be addressed by punishment or legal action. Rather, they say, most errors represent systemic problems, including poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the absence or underuse of safety nets, and other protocols, in addition to unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns that lack accountability.” Source. If there were a system for reporting medical errors, more steps could be taken to reduce their occurrence.


  1. Late to reply/ but who would the medical mistakes/errors be reported to? Who would do the reporting? How does one know the mistake/error was the cause of death? Who oversees and manages these data, and how would these data be applied in meaningful way or translate into industry change? Collecting these data seems to be occurring, as reported here, but this suggests there is a lack of data analysis, interpretation, translation, dissemination and application within the medical industry. Wouldn’t a reporting and tracking system require systematic oversight by the governing medical board- and even then, how would the information be used to make recommendations for change?
    Not disagreeing that reporting and tracking is these data are valuable, needed, and important- I just wonder how the profession/industry would go about this?

  2. Perhaps they could implement something similar to what the FAA does for the aviation industry. It’s known as the Aviation Safety Reporting System.

    It is a program to report issue/mistakes/violations anonymously. All reports are analyzed and changes are made to various areas of aviation.

    As pilots, we also have the ability to review the reports. This helps put us in the shoes of the reporter and will hopefully keep us from making the same mistakes.

    • Great point. Yes I think that would be helpful in reducing medical mistakes. Hi

  3. You know what they call the person who finished med school last in their class?



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Subscribe To The IFOD

Get the Interesting Fact of the Day delivered twice a week. Plus, sign up today and get Chapter 2 of John's book The Uncertainty Solution to not only Think Better, but Live Better. Don't miss a single post!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This
%d bloggers like this: