Medical errors lead to thousands of preventable deaths every year in the United States. The Journal of Patient Safety released a study in September 2013 that provided an updated number of deaths due to medical errors.

The study “A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Association with Hospital Care,” revealed that there are approximately 440,000 accidental deaths per year.

In 1984 the Institute of Medicine found that about 98,000 Americans died every year due to medical errors.

The medical errors happen due to a wrong diagnosis, wrong medication prescription, surgical errors or infections that go undetected, etc…

Dr. John T. James is in charge of Patient Safety America. This advocacy organization was created to help inform patients about healthcare in the United States. Dr. James has dedicated the organization’s work to his son who died at 19 from “uninformed, careless, and unethical care by cardiologists.”

According to Patient Safety America, medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

It is important to remember that patients are their own best advocate. If the patient is incapable of making important medical decisions on their own, they should seek the help and advice of trusted family members of friends. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines a few tips for patients to prevent medical errors. These are some of the tips suggested:

  • Keep a list of all medications you are taking, and a list of any medications you are allergic to
  • Read all prescriptions from doctors and ask any questions you have when the doctor is prescribing the medication
  • Always ask about possible side effects of the medications
  • During a hospital stay, make sure that any health care worker washes his/her hands before touching you to prevent the spread of infection
  • Make sure you are aware of any new treatment plan you must follow after discharge
  • If you have surgery try to pick a hospital where the surgery has been successfully performed multiple times
  • Before surgery make sure everyone is on the same page about what is going to be done
  • Ask family members or friends to come with you to your appointments
  • Find out why doctors are recommending tests or treatments (sometimes you might be better off without them)
  • Always speak up and talk to your doctor about any and all concerns


Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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