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Most Common Medical Errors

Medical errors kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. In fact, according to a recent study, medical errors are currently the third leading cause of death, with between 220,000 and 440,000 deaths attributed to preventable medical errors each year.

Some of the most common medical errors include:

  • Diagnostic errors. New data indicates that missed or delayed diagnoses are the most common type of medical error. In fact, diagnostic errors are believed to affect 10 to 20 percent of cases, far exceeding medication errors and surgical errors.  And the consequences of diagnostic errors are often catastrophic. According to a 2009 report, 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability.

  • Surgical errors. According to research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, surgical "never events" - those errors that should never happen, such as wrong-site surgeries or leaving medical equipment in the patient - occur at least 4,000 times a year in the United States and more than 80,000 "never events" occurred between 1990 and 2010. The Johns Hopkins research also showed that approximately 39 times a week a foreign object, such as a towel or sponge, is left inside of a patient; approximately 20 times a week, surgeons perform the wrong surgery or operate on the wrong body part; and more than 9,744 medical malpractice claims were paid during the twenty year period, which cost more than $1.3 billion.

  • Medication errors. Approximately 1.3 million people are injured each year in the United States as a result of a medication error. According to an FDA study of fatal medication errors between 1993 and 1998, the most common medication error was related to improper doses of medicine, which accounted for 41% of fatal medication errors. Giving the wrong drug and using the wrong method of drug administration each accounted for 16% of the errors.

  • Unnecessary treatment and procedures. Studies show that each year $700 billion is spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Not only are unnecessary procedures costly, but they can also expose patients to additional medical risks. For instance, CT scans may increase a person's lifetime risk of cancer and the dyes from CT scans and MRIs can cause kidney failure. It is important that patients know whether a procedure is necessary and the risks involved with the procedure before agreeing to it.

  • Infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every 1.7 million people catch an infection in the hospital, such as pneumonia, surgical site infections, urinary infections from catheters, and bloodstream infections from IVs. In some cases, hospital-acquired infections involve antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be deadly, especially to those with weakened immune systems.

Because medical errors often involve medical malpractice, it is important that you consult with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer if you or a loved one were the victim of a medical error. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are committed to protecting the public from medical errors and helping the victims of medical malpractice obtain full and fair financial compensation for their injuries.

If you suspect that you might have been the victim of medical negligence, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible medical malpractice claim.


Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  ( is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.

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