Medical Mistakes by a Doctor or Physician
A 2000 report by the Institute of Medicine claimed that 98,000 people a year were killed and more than one million (1,000,000) were injured every year by medical mistakes.
Medical mistakes are unfortunately common. We don’t know how common, but a 2000 report by the Institute of Medicine claimed that 98,000 people a year were killed and more than one million (1,000,000) were injured every year by medical mistakes. A 2010 study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that among Medicare patients alone, about 1 in 7 suffered a medical error, contributing to about 180,000 deaths a year and resulting in about 1.6 million injuries. About 40% of the errors in the study were described as “preventable.”
If you suspect your doctor made a medical mistake during treatment, it’s important to understand that these mistakes are not rare. It can be hard to sort out the evidence and determine what errors might have been made. We can help.
Why Mistakes Are Made
Medical mistakes, often legally described as medical malpractice, are often due to human factors or procedural factors. These include:
- Poor procedure
- Understaffing or overworking
- Poor training
- Fragmentation of care and poor communication between care providers
- Poor labeling of drugs leading to medication errors
- Inadequate crisis response
- Use of inexperienced residents to provide care (the so-called July effect, the month when medical mistakes spike because new residents enter the system)
Almost all of these causes can be addressed, and some attempts have shown that preventable medical error rates can be dramatically reduced with determined, but sometimes expensive, efforts. Hospitals often don’t have the desire or willingness to implement these changes.
What Mistakes Are Made
There are many common medical mistakes. These include:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors (a factor in up to half of all patient deaths due to error)
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to give tests or act on test results
- Surgical errors
- Inadequate monitoring (contributes to fatal incidents like blood clots after anesthesia)
- Inadequate preparation
When these occur, the resulting injury may be immediate or it may take months or even years before the full effects are known.
Most Mistakes Are Not Reported
As we noted above, medical mistakes can generally be prevented, if hospitals and care providers have the willingness to do what it takes to revise procedures. However, they have little incentive to implement potentially expensive changes as long as few victims report the errors. Hospitals themselves only report about 1% of medical errors.
The average number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the US is only about 85,000, or approximately 8.5% of the lowest reliable estimate of the annual number of injuries from medical mistakes. Even for the most serious types of medical error—such as operating on the wrong body part—only about 20% of victims ever file a lawsuit.
As long as making medical mistakes is cheaper than preventing them, the for-profit medical system will continue harming patients. You have the ability to change this. If you have been hurt by a doctor’s error, you have a responsibility to come forward with your story and your claim.