In a flier drafted for the project, the government asks: "Have you recently experienced a medical mistake? Do you have concerns about the safety of your health care?" And it urges patients to contact a new "consumer reporting system for patient safety." The government says it will use information submitted by patients to make health care safer.

Federal officials say that medical mistakes often go unreported, and that patients have potentially useful information that could expose reasons for drug mix-ups, surgery on the wrong body part, radiation overdoses and myriad other problems that cause injuries, infections and tens of thousands of deaths each year.

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Doctors are the third-leading cause of death in the US