The Most Common Medical Errors
Ryan Zavodnick | March 24, 2021 | Medical Malpractice
The odds of dying from a medical error are 1 in 10. Studies estimate that medical errors are responsible for between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths each year in the United States. However, some researchers suggest the figure might be even higher.
John Hopkins Medicine reports that deaths due to medical error total more than 250,000 per year. Data suggests that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Physician burnout is a common cause of medical errors, according to Stanford researchers.
What is a Medical Error?
A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of a patient’s medical care. The error may cause harm or injury to the patient. Errors occur in all types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, outpatient facilities, emergency rooms, and long-term care facilities.
The most common types of medical errors are:
Errors Related to Diagnosis
Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, and delayed diagnosis can cause patients severe harm. Patients may not receive timely treatment or the correct treatment because of diagnostic errors.
Medication errors are very common. They occur in hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical facilities. A patient may be given the wrong medication or the wrong dose of medication.
The risk of infection is present in all health care settings. When medical professionals do not follow proper procedures or adequately monitor patients, the patients can develop life-threatening infections.
Errors reading medical imaging reports can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. These errors may result in a patient not receiving the correct treatment or receiving unnecessary treatment or surgery.
Failure to Monitor Patients
Failing to monitor a patient during and after surgery or other medical procedures can lead to numerous adverse events. The patient may develop complications from the procedure that could lead to injury or death.
Failing to Obtain a Patient History
If a doctor fails to review a patient’s medical history and assess the patient for risks, the patient could suffer harm from certain medical treatments and procedures. Failing to obtain informed consent may also be related to this medical error.
Surgical errors are also common. A surgeon may operate on the wrong body part or leave instruments inside the patient. Failing to monitor the patient after the surgery could also lead to injuries and harm.
During surgery and medical procedures, the patient must be monitored closely to ensure that they do not develop an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Anesthesia errors include giving the patient the wrong medication or too much medication.
Common Causes of Medical Errors
Most medical negligence involves human errors and mistakes. The errors are preventable and are mainly due to carelessness, rushing, or other wrongdoing.
Common causes of medical errors include:
- Fatigue from working too many hours without rest and sleep
- Practicing under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Communication errors between doctors, staff members, radiologists, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers
- Understaffed hospitals and medical facilities
- Lack of adequate training or supervision
- Failing to review the patient’s medical history and perform a risk assessment
- Failure to order diagnostic tests and other procedures
- Treating the wrong patient or reviewing the wrong patient’s chart
- Errors made in the lab department
- Using defective medical equipment and failing to maintain medical equipment
- Lack of coordinated care
Sadly, the patient is the one that suffers harm and injuries because of medical errors. A patient may sustain various injuries, including brain damage, nerve damage, internal organ damage, loss of limbs, spinal cord injuries, and wrongful death.
Holding Medical Professionals Responsible for Mistakes and Errors
When a doctor or health care provider is negligent or makes a mistake, the patient has a legal cause of action to seek compensation for their damages.
They can file a medical malpractice claim seeking compensation for damages, such as:
- Cost of medical and personal care
- Physical pain and suffering
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
- Loss of income and benefits
- Scarring and disfigurements
- Emotional distress and mental trauma
- Loss of quality of life
Proving a medical malpractice claim requires the assistance of medical experts. A medical expert reviews the case to identify the standard of care that should have been used in the situation. The medical expert also identifies how the doctor’s conduct deviated from the acceptable standard of care.
To prove a medical malpractice claim, you must prove that:
- The doctor owed you a duty of care
- The doctor breached the duty of care
- The breach of care was the direct and proximate cause of your injury
- You sustained damages
If you cannot prove that you were injured and sustained damages, the doctor is not guilty of medical malpractice, even if he made an error. The best way to protect yourself if you believe you were injured because of a medical error is to seek legal advice as soon as possible.