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New Evidence of Serious Medical Errors Made in Hospitals

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A 2016 study concluded that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.  New research concludes that nearly a quarter of all hospital patients suffer harm from a medical error.

The 2016 Johns Hopkins study (“Medical Error—The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US”) found that medical errors are responsible for 250,000 patient deaths each year.  Only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths annually, according to the study.

Serious Medical Errors Made in Hospitals

Common, serious medical errors made in hospitals include:

The 2023 study, “The Safety of Inpatient Health Care,” was published online in January by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study included admission records from 11 Massachusetts hospitals in 2018.  Just over 2,800 hospital patient records were reviewed by nurses, who flagged potential adverse events.  A panel of doctors confirmed the nurses’ findings.

An adverse event refers to patient harm that results from medical care rather than the patient’s medical condition. The study found that almost one out of every four hospital patients (24%) experienced an adverse event. Over 200 patients suffered harm from a medical error that was preventable.

Nearly a third of the adverse events suffered by the patients were deemed serious. One patient died as a result of a preventable medical error.

Medication Errors Responsible for Patient Harm

The most common medical errors that harmed hospital patients involved the administration of drugs. Medication errors accounted for almost 40% of the patient harm found in the 2023 study.

Medication errors typically involve the following, alone or in combination:

  • Drugs administered in the wrong dosage
  • Incorrect medication given to a patient
  • Medication administered at the wrong time
  • Medication given by the wrong route

Surgical Errors

About 30% of the adverse events were linked to a surgical error. While not outlined in the study, serious surgical errors can include:

  • Wrong site surgery
  • Anesthesia errors
  •  Wrong procedure
  • Surgical item left in patient

Errors made during nursing care, such as falls and pressure ulcers, accounted for 15% of the patient harm.

Hospital-acquired infections were found to be responsible for 12% of the adverse events. Hospital-acquired infections are those that patients receive during a hospital stay, and can be very serious.  They largely can be prevented by thorough and consistent hand-washing by medical providers and other personnel, as well as regular and responsible cleaning of medical devices and equipment.

Medical care can be complicated, but patients and their families can suffer grave harm when medical errors occur.  Those gravely injured due to the negligence of caregivers can hold accountable all those responsible.

If you believe you or a loved one was the victim of a serious error during medical care, speak with a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog January 23, 2023.