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"We got humans here. They make mistakes," James said. "The real question is are they making too many mistakes and are they learning from the ones they make?"

The Journal of Patient Safety published James' analysis, which estimates 440,000 people die each year after suffering from medical errors in hospitals. It's the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, James said.

Consumer Reports has also studied hospital safety and has rated more than 2,500 hospitals. Their ratings are based on how likely patients are to die within 30 days of being admitted for a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. They consider how often surgery patients with serious, treatable complications die in the hospital.

Data is taken from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said John Santa, medical director at Consumer Reports.

"Although this data is from people 65 and older, it's a good indication of a hospital's attention to safety," Santa said.

Below are some of the top rated hospitals for safety in Los Angeles County:

  • Tri-City Regional Medical Center
  • Los Angeles Community Hospital
  • Pacific Hospital of Long Beach
  • Lakewood Regional Medical Center
  • Greater El Monte Community Hospital

Consumer Reports hopes that by putting a spotlight on safety, hospitals will do a better job preventing hospital errors.

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