Vast Majority of Medical Errors are Preventable

The Journal of the American Medical Association has written that “almost a quarter (22.7%) of active-care patient deaths were rated as at least possibly preventable by optimal care, with 6.0% rated as probably or definitely preventable.” So at least 6% of patient deaths are preventable and maybe as high as 23% of patient deaths could be prevented. Additionally, as high as 74% off medical errors, not resulting in wrongful death, are preventable errors.

It is well known and indisputable that preventable medical errors are attributed to almost 100,000 death a year in the United States. This is according to the National Institute of Medicine and recognized by most major healthcare organizations and medical malpractice insurance companies. Many doctors and nurses get away with making a lot of mistakes, not until a patient is seriously hurt or killed is the conduct usually addressed.

The key word is “Preventable” errors, not unavoidable complications that patients agree to the risk of, but preventable errors that are the result of medical negligence that threatens patient safety. Unfortunately, Healthcare is not as safe as it should or could be which often leads to medical malpractice. Enforcement of patient safety rules through the civil justice system is an effective way of forcing healthcare providers to be more safe, for patients’ sake.

Preventable medical errors can be defined as“the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim.” Common preventable medical errors include:

Preventable Diagnostic Errors

  • Error or delay in diagnosis, such as not diagnosing a severe injury or disease and sending a patient home.
  • Failure to use indicated tests. Example, not using a CT on a patient in the emergency room with a suspected brain injury, and therefore missing an injury that requires immediate intervention.
  • Use of outmoded tests or therapy. Basically, a healthcare providers inability to keep up with the latest industry standard treatment and testing.
  • Failure to act on results. Not responding to objective evidence of injury or a disease process apparent in test results.

Preventable Treatment Errors

  • Error in the performance of an operation, procedure, or test – Surgical Errors of choosing not to confidently identify the anatomy before cutting.
  • Error in administering the treatment.
  • Error in the dose or method of using a drug. This commonly occurs in the emergency room when the admission sheets indicate an allergy to a certain medication, such as morphine, or anesthesia, and the nursing staff administer it anyway.
  • Avoidable delay in treatment or in responding to an abnormal test. Simply not acting on tests that indicate emergent care is required.
  • Inappropriate (not indicated) care

To Err is Human, however, patient safety in our healthcare system requires that that the violation of rules that result in preventable errors and threaten patient safety must be be enforced. Enforcement of safety rules through the civil justice system, with the help of a medical malpractice attorney, is an effective way for the community to force healthcare providers to be more careful and put mechanisms in place to reduce preventable errors and thus increase patient safety.

Our Missouri & Illinois medical malpractice law firm handles dozens of cases every year that are from preventable medical errors. If you or a family member have been needlessly hurt by a doctor or nurse call us for a free consultation. (314) 863-0500 or request a legal consultation online.