Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America behind heart disease and cancer. Not surprisingly, many patients are fearful when undergoing medical procedures and routine health care. Research shows as many as 440,000 patients experience a form of preventable harm during the course of their medical care. But what type of medical errors and malpractice are most common?
Diagnostic errors top the list as the most frequent form of malpractice, according to a 2013 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. The analysis, published in BMJ Quality & Safety, found diagnostic errors accounted for the largest fraction of claims, the most severe patient harm and the highest number of claim payouts. Diagnosis-related mistakes refer to delayed, missed or incorrect diagnosis. Other common types of malpractice include:
- Medication errors – Medication mistakes were the second most common form of malpractice found in the BMJ study. These mistakes include inappropriate medication dispensing, medication mismanagement and improper prescribing.
- Surgical errors – Surgical mistakes can include foreign objects being left in patients during surgery, surgeries performed on an incorrect area of the body or an incorrect surgery conducted. A 2012 study in Surgery found more 4,000 instances of surgical “never events” occur annually. Never events are serious, larger preventable, medical care outcomes.
- Anesthesia mistakes – Harm from anesthesia can stem from too much anesthesia during a procedure, failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs, improper intubation or using defective equipment. A 2011 study shows patient deaths associated with anesthesia are on the rise.
- Childbirth injuries – Injury to children and mothers during labor and delivery can result from improper use of equipment, failure to diagnose birth defects, failure to diagnose a medical condition in the mother or negligent delivery. Birth injuries occur in more than three percent of deliveries.
Errors resulting from medical malpractice can cause serious harm, paralysis, brain injury and even death to patients. In many cases, patients are never the same again. Family members and friends are also often significantly impacted by medical harm to their loved ones. Patients who experience medical malpractice deserve skilled legal representatives who can ensure their case is thoroughly analyzed and litigated.