Skip to content

Top 10 Medical Errors That Lead to Death

Medical errors cause thousands of deaths every year in the United States. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, medical errors contribute to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, and that estimate only takes hospital patients into account.

Outlined below are the most common causes of fatal medical errors by medical professionals.

Doctor Image
medical personnel meeting
Communication problems
Communication problems, both vocal and written, are one of the most common causes of medical errors. Miscommunication can occur between a doctor, nurse, a lab technician, or any other medical professional.
medicine kit
information flow
Many patients never learn basic information about their illness and treatment. A Mayo Clinic survey found that only about 42% of discharged patients could name their diagnosis, 28% could list all their medications, 37% could state the purpose of their prescription drugs, and 14% could identify the drugs’ most common side effects.
Discharged patients could name their diagnosis.
medicine shelves
Medical Errors
Medication errors are one of the most common medical mistakes. They may involve prescribing the wrong drug, the wrong dose, or failing to account for drug interactions.
heartbeat icon
Every year in the U.S., between 7,000 and 9,000 patients die as a result of a medical error.
medical staff meeting
Organizational transfer of knowledge
This includes inadequately training and educating health care providers. Without proper training, doctors, nurses, and other caregivers may not perform medical tasks the right way or even know how to properly transfer crucial patient information between shifts, placing patients at risk of death.
doctor and patient
The incorrect diagnosis can prove deadly to a patient in dire need of medical care. Misdiagnosis can cause a patient’s actual medical illness to worsen. Some forms of treatment can be deadly if they are performed on the wrong patient.
patient on hospital bed
Delayed Diagnosis
Delayed diagnosis can lead to the deterioration of a patient’s medical condition and long periods of pain and suffering before the proper medical care is administered. A delayed diagnosis may allow a disease to progress to a point where it is no longer treatable.
doctor and patient
Patient-related issues
These issues may include improper patient identification, insufficient patient assessment, failure to get consent, and inadequate patient education.
medical staff at work
Staffing patterns and workflow
Inadequate staffing can put health care providers in situations where they are more likely to make an error. A Mayo Clinic survey of almost 6,700 doctors in the U.S. found that 10.5% reported making a major medical error in the past three months.
Doctors made a major medical error in the past three months.
medical equipment
Technical failure
Medical equipment and devices may not be well-maintained or could be defective. If a health care provider uses faulty equipment on a patient, it could cause death.
doctor reading
Inadequate policies
This includes failing to create comprehensive organizational policies, clearly document policies, or carry out organizational policies across the medical facility.
Most Common Medication Errors
Some of the most common medication errors include:
File Icon
Failure to account for a patient's medical history or allergies
Medicine Icon
Failure to administer medication at all
Medicine Icon
Failure to consider potential drug interactions
Medicine Time Icon
Failure to administer medications at the appropriate time
Wrong Medication Icon
Administering the wrong medication
Medicine Bottle Icon
Administering the wrong form of a medication, such as using immediate-release instead of extended-release
Syringe Icon
Administering the wrong dose or strength
Laboratory Flask Icon
Preparing medication incorrectly
Patient Icon
Administering medication to the wrong patient
Medicine Calendar Icon
Administering expired medication
According to the Patient Safety Network, there is an approximately 8%-25% median error rate when medication is administered at hospitals and long-term care facilities. In addition, in a survey of adults who had experienced some type of medical errors, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement found that:
Were administered the wrong medication dosage
Received the wrong medication from a pharmacy
Received the wrong medication from a doctor
Accidentally took too much medication
Medical Error Deaths Are on the Rise
Grave Icon
Up to 440,000 deaths each year can be attributed to medical errors, injuries, accidents, and infections, according to the Journal of Patient Safety. That’s more than 1,200 fatalities every day.
USA Map Icon
Over 250,000 people in the U.S. die each year because of medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in this country behind heart disease and cancer, according to a Johns Hopkins study.
Hospital Icon
One in 25 patients treated in U.S. hospitals every year will develop a healthcare-associated infection, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tragically, these infections often have fatal consequences.
If you believe you have been the victim of a medical error, don’t hesitate to discuss the circumstances of your injury with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates today for a free and confidential case evaluation.
Share this image on your site

Get A Free Case Consultation

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Location

1050 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.

Suite 500

Washington, D.C. 20036


Get Directions