Healthcare Errors: The 10 Most Fatal Medical Mistakes


Medical professionals have a responsibility to use their best judgment when treating patients, however many times they fail to do so, resulting in medical negligence. Medical malpractice has become the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States with about 250,000 fatalities per year. This is something that can be prevented with better education, hospital procedures, and protocols.

1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

The leading medical malpractice error in the United States is misdiagnosing or delaying a proper diagnosis for a patient. This unfortunately common mistake can easily lead to injury or death by not implementing proper treatment promptly. There have been 3 conditions labeled as “The Big Three” that account for 75% of diagnosis errors that end up being fatal which are vascular disease, infections, and cancer. Complications that come with misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis are the patient not receiving treatment or the wrong treatment. About a third of all medical malpractice claims are from a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

2. Medication Error

Another common medical mistake is medication errors. Medication errors include prescribing the wrong medication, improperly dosing the medication, not accounting for medication interactions, or administering expired medication. This type of error costs the lives of 7000 to 9000 patients per year.

3. Premature Discharge

Premature discharge happens when a patient is released from hospital care too early and either returns to the hospital or dies within 7 days of their original hospitalization. This form of medical malpractice takes about 10,000 lives per year. Age is a factor in this as the average age of death from premature discharge is 69. Premature discharge can happen from hospitals being too full, understaffed, or improper testing was done to assess if the patient should be discharged.

4. Botched Surgery

Botched or unnecessary surgeries are surgical procedures that went wrong or didn’t need to be done. Surgical errors account for 24% of all medical malpractice deaths. Many things can go wrong in surgery such as organ damage, nerve damage, infection, internal bleeding, and blood clots. These complications can be life-threatening for the patient which is why the death rate of these errors is so high.

5. Ignoring Patients Symptoms

Physicians have a duty to investigate and test for all symptoms that a patient complains of to a reasonable extent. If a doctor ignores a patient’s symptoms by not performing thorough and necessary testing, they are committing a form of medical malpractice.

6. Birth Injuries

Birth injuries due to medical errors are way too common and have a shockingly high death rate. There are about 157,000 cases per year of avoidable birth injuries and fatalities. Birth injuries can involve the mother, child, or both. The most common birth injury is asphyxiation of the baby or misjudgment of when to perform a C-Section. Other injuries include brain injuries, arm injuries, and nerve damage.

7. Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors make up 2.7% of medical malpractice claims. Some examples are patients given the wrong type of anesthesia, given the improper dosage, or are improperly monitored. This type of error can be one of the most severe since it can subject the patient to extreme pain during an operation and they may not be able to move or speak.

8. Unnecessary Surgeries

Unnecessary surgeries are surgeries where the benefits do not outweigh the risks. It is a medical professional responsibility to judge the risks versus the rewards of a procedure or treatment and when there is a failure to do this it is considered medical malpractice. About 10-20% of all surgeries can be deemed unnecessary.

9. Hospital Acquired Infections

A hospital-acquired infection (HAI) can result from improperly disinfecting an area, provider cleanliness, bedsores leading to sepsis, or emergency room errors like misdiagnosing a meningitis patient. While often overlooked, according to the CDC, one in every 31 hospital patients has an HAI.

10. Communication Errors

About 27% of medical malpractice failures result from a communication error. Communication errors can be failure to fill out a patient’s chart, failure to review a patient’s chart fully, or failure to take the patient’s medical history. This is the most preventable medical malpractice error that leads to unnecessary suffering.

What To Do If You Are a Victim of Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, medical malpractice is a common experience for patients in the United States. If you believe you have experienced medical malpractice, you should contact an attorney immediately. It is also important that you document everything as evidence of your claim. You should also switch your medical provider to get proper medical care as soon as possible. You should not have to suffer unnecessary pain or ailments due to a medical professional’s negligence.