20 Most Common Medical Mistakes in the U.S.

Mistakes will happen, even in places where they shouldn’t – like the hospital.

Medical mistakes not only injure more people than you think, they can be deadly. Recent research shows that—after heart disease and cancer—medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US. More than accidents, strokes, lung disease and Alzheimer’s.

Medical mistakes can and do happen virtually anywhere. In hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, surgery centers, nursing homes, pharmacies, and patients’ homes. From nurses giving the wrong meds to the wrong patient, too much oxygen, too many transfusions, and surgeons removing the wrong body parts or leaving surgical equipment in a person’s body after an operation.

Each year, more than 200,000 people die from preventable medical mistakes, and up to 20 times more suffer from the side effects of medical mistakes but don’t actually die from them.


Many medical mistakes are caused by misdiagnosis. A wrong diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment or a delay in treatment and it often has other severe consequences, mostly because the actual problem goes unchecked and untreated. Not receiving a proper and accurate diagnosis can also be dangerous.

It’s important to understand what symptoms and conditions you have, and not just do what most people do when they are asked to complete a form: hastily check-off a list of things that you don’t have.

kyokyo / Shutterstock.com
kyokyo / Shutterstock.com

Unnecessary tests and deadly procedures

Studies show that $700 billion is spent every year on unnecessary tests and treatments. Not only is it an expensive waste of money but they are risky medical mistakes.

For example, CT scans are proven to increase the lifetime risk of cancer. Dyes from CTs and MRIs can cause kidney failure. Even a simple blood test can cause infection and other side effects, especially in the elderly, very young, and those with compromised immune systems.

anekoho / Shutterstock.com
anekoho / Shutterstock.com

Medication mistakes

The wrong drug, the wrong dose, similar drug names, similar drug dosages and bad drug combinations can cause bad reactions and serious medical mistakes. More than 30 million Americans are victims of medication mistakes every year, at a cost of $3.5 billion.

The mistakes get even worse when patients are in-hospital. Over 60% of hospitalized patients miss their regular medication while they are in the hospital and, on average, 6.8 medications per patient are left out.

megaflopp / Shutterstock.com
megaflopp / Shutterstock.com
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