Dangerous Medical Errors You Must Know About
Are you concerned about the safety and quality of medical care in the U.S.?
Medical errors have a profound impact on patients and the overall healthcare system. Studies by patient safety experts reveal that medical errors rank as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. 
Misdiagnosis, medication errors, and other preventable mistakes can lead to severe and long-term health problems and even death. By implementing better diagnostic tools, improving communication among healthcare providers, and enhancing medication management systems, the healthcare system can work towards providing safer, more effective care for patients.
Common Types of Medical Errors
Medical errors can occur in various forms and have severe consequences for patient safety. Here are some common types of medical errors:
Diagnostic errors can be defined as mistakes or failures in identifying a patient’s medical condition. It can include errors in the initial diagnosis, misinterpretation of test results, and failure to consider all possible diagnoses.
Examples of diagnostic errors include misdiagnosing a heart attack as indigestion, dismissing a patient’s symptoms as anxiety, or attributing symptoms to a less severe condition.
Adverse drug events can occur in various forms, including prescription errors, improper dosing, and poor communication between healthcare providers and patients.
Prescription errors can involve prescribing the wrong medication or dosage, while improper dosing mistakes can result in under or overdosing. Poor communication, such as unclear instructions or failure to consider a patient’s allergies, can lead to medication errors.
Surgical errors include performing wrong-site surgery and incorrect surgical procedures, leaving instruments inside the patient’s body, and anesthesia-related errors. These errors can have serious consequences for patients, leading to prolonged recovery times, additional surgeries, permanent injury, or death.
Communication errors in healthcare can have severe consequences, making them a particularly dangerous type of medical error. Breakdowns in communication among healthcare providers, such as poor handoffs or lack of information transfer, can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes in patient care. Hospitals can reduce communication errors by implementing Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
Inadequate Patient Monitoring:
Healthcare providers may fail to monitor a patient’s condition appropriately and track a patient’s vital signs, changes in condition, or response to treatment.
The lack of attentive monitoring can result in delayed detection of complications, medication errors, or even patient deterioration, potentially leading to adverse events or harm to the patient.
Systemic errors involve problems within the healthcare system, such as inadequate staffing, a flawed process of care, or a lack of standardized protocols. It can lead to medication errors, misdiagnoses, delayed treatment, or preventable harm.
Equipment failures present a significant risk to patient safety and the delivery of quality care. It encompasses a range of issues, including malfunctioning medical devices or technology breakdowns in critical care systems. Such failures can lead to serious harm to patients.
To mitigate these risks, healthcare institutions must prioritize regular maintenance, calibration, and testing of all equipment, along with adequate systems, to promptly identify and address equipment failures.
Infections and Healthcare-Associated Injuries:
Healthcare-associated infections and injuries are significant concerns within medical settings. These can include infections acquired during a hospital stay, surgical site infections, infections from intensive care units, or injuries resulting from medical procedures.
These preventable errors not only pose a threat to patient safety but also can lead to increased healthcare costs, prolonged hospital stays, and, in severe cases, can result in long-term health issues or fatalities.
Documentation errors in hospitals can have significant consequences as they can lead to inaccurate treatment plans, medication errors, and delayed or inappropriate care for patients. Documentation errors include omissions, illegible handwriting, wrong patient data entry, and failure to update medical records.
Laboratory errors occur during the testing and analysis of specimens in medical laboratories. It involves a wide range of issues, including mislabeling of samples, contamination, equipment malfunctions, or errors in interpreting and reporting test results. Such errors can have profound implications for patient care, leading to misdiagnoses, incorrect treatment decisions, or unnecessary procedures.
Physical Consequences of Dangerous Medical Errors
Physical consequences of dangerous medical errors can vary widely depending on the nature of the error and the specific circumstances. Some potential physical consequences include:
- Worsening of Medical Condition: Failure to accurately diagnose or treat a medical condition can lead to the progression or worsening of the patient’s health condition. For example, a delayed diagnosis of heart disease may result in the death of patients.
- Injuries from Diagnostic Errors: Errors in diagnostic procedures, such as misinterpretation of medical imaging or laboratory results, can lead to incorrect treatment plans and unnecessary interventions, potentially causing physical harm.
- Hospital-Acquired Infections: Inadequate infection control measures can contribute to hospital-acquired infections, leading to additional physical complications for patients already dealing with medical issues.
- Organ Failure: Severe medical errors, particularly those involving medication overdoses or mismanagement of medical conditions, may contribute to organ failure, impacting the functioning of vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, or liver.
- Nerve or Tissue Damage: Surgical errors, injections in the wrong location, or other procedural mistakes may result in nerve damage, tissue injuries, or complications that affect the patient’s physical function and sensation.
- Prolonged Recovery or Rehabilitation: Errors that lead to complications or additional medical interventions can extend the recovery period for patients. Prolonged hospital stays, rehabilitation, and additional treatments may be required.
- Physical Disabilities: Severe consequences of medical errors can result in long-term or permanent physical disabilities. It may include paralysis, loss of mobility, or impairment of sensory functions.
- Wrongful Death: In the most tragic cases, dangerous medical errors can lead to the death of a patient. Preventable deaths can occur due to complications from untreated conditions, surgical errors, or other critical mistakes in patient care.
Legal Consequences of Dangerous Medical Errors
Dangerous medical errors can have significant legal consequences for healthcare workers, institutions, and pharmaceutical companies. Some potential legal ramifications include:
- Medical Malpractice Claims: Medical malpractice claims can be filed against the responsible healthcare team or institutions. To establish a medical malpractice case, your malpractice attorney will need to demonstrate that the healthcare professional deviated from the standard of care and directly resulted in harm.
- Negligence Lawsuits: Legal actions may be pursued based on negligence, alleging that the healthcare provider or institution failed to exercise reasonable care, leading to patient harm. Negligence claims can extend to various aspects of healthcare, from misdiagnoses to surgical errors.
- Wrongful Death Lawsuits: In cases of wrongful death due to a dangerous medical error, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for the family’s loss, including funeral expenses, loss of income, and emotional distress.
- Product Liability Claims: If a medical error is attributed to a defective medical device or medication, you may pursue legal liability claims against the manufacturer or distributor of the product. These claims allege that the product was inherently dangerous or lacked proper warnings.
- Breach of Informed Consent Lawsuits: You may pursue legal action if you believe they were not adequately informed about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a medical procedure or treatment. A breach of informed consent claim argues that you would have made a different decision if fully informed.
- Criminal Charges: In extreme cases involving gross negligence or intentional harm, healthcare providers may face criminal charges. Criminal cases are rare in healthcare but can occur when actions are deemed criminally reckless or intentional.
Types of Compensation Available for Medical Errors
Following are a few compensation types that you could seek if you have been a victim of a medical error:
- Economic Damages: Economic damages cover specific financial losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future medical costs.
- Non-economic Damages: These include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive Damages: In extreme negligence or misconduct cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the healthcare provider or facility and deter similar behavior.
- Wrongful Death Compensation: Financial compensation is available to the surviving family members of a person who died as a result of a medical error. It may cover funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, and loss of companionship.
- Legal Fees: In some cases, the court may order the at-fault party to pay the legal fees incurred by the plaintiff in pursuing the case.
Contact Goldberg & Loren today for a free consultation if you have experienced harm due to medical negligence.
 Jaklevic, M. C. (2023, November 8). ‘Medical errors are the third leading cause of death’ and other statistics you should question. Association of Health Care Journalists. https://healthjournalism.org/blog/2023/07/medical-errors-are-the-third-leading-cause-of-death-and-other-statistics-you-should-question/