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New Study: Half of Harmful Medical Mistakes Are Preventable

Robert F. Spohrer

At some point in their life, almost every person in the United States will require medical care. This fact makes it all the more disturbing that over 1 in 20 patients are harmed by largely preventable errors while being treated or cared for by medical professionals. Among these patients, 12% are permanently disabled or killed.

Half of these mistakes, which are sometimes fatal, are preventable.

Statistics Say…

The study, written by Maria Panagioti and published in the BMJ medical journal surveyed 337,025 patients. Of those patients, 38,150 experienced harmful incidents. When ranked, 49% of the harms were considered mild, 36% were moderate, and 12% were severe. Overall, a whopping 15,419 of these incidents were preventable.

Drugs and other therapies accounted for 49% of harmful incidents, and surgical errors made up 23% of harms. At 16% each, problems from healthcare infections and diagnoses were less prevalent.


Statistics reveal that most patient harm was caused by mistakes with medication. As such, doctors and patients alike should dedicate extra time and care when prescribing or accepting medication. As a patient, you should never take a drug unless you understand its intended effect, possible side effects, and interactions with other drugs. That being said, the duty of care rests squarely on the shoulders of medical professionals. If you believe you have already been harmed by a medication or treatment error, you should consult an attorney to explore your options.

As one of the largest studies ever conducted on the frequency and severity of patient harm, the data serves as a reminder of the unacceptably high rates of preventable harm within the healthcare field. While preventing these mistakes is the best course of action, and ways to prevent future harms are already being explored in hospitals across the country, it is also important to hold negligent care providers liable for their errors. As medical mistakes become the number 3 leading cause of death in the United States, medical malpractice claims continue to increase in popularity.

Moving Forward

You know your body best. If you are expecting to undergo medical care in the future, you can choose to be your own advocate. Be sure to ask questions and point out when medical professionals do something that makes you uncomfortable, or that you do not understand.

If you have already been the victim of harm from a medical mistake, you should also speak up. At Spohrer Dodd, our Medical Malpractice Lawyers can help you develop a strong medical malpractice case and obtain maximum recovery. While you have already been harmed by someone else’s mistakes, you should not have to pay for them financially as well.

Hold medical professionals accountable by calling (904) 637-7721 or setting up a free consultation today.