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Common causes of medical errors

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When you hear of a medical malpractice case, you may wonder how in the world such a life-altering mistake was able to happen. Medical professionals must go through years of training before being able to practice, so making serious medical errors does not make sense, and yet it is the third highest cause of death in  the U.S.

The truth is that such wrongs usually do not happen from inadequate education or insufficient experience, though these certainly can be reasons. Most medical mistakes occur due to the following factors that are completely avoidable.

Poor communication

Quality health care relies on superior communication between doctors, nurses, and other staff members. Unclear or incomplete information passed along through the spoken or written word leads to:

  • Making a wrong or late diagnosis, or missing one altogether
  • Performing surgeries on the wrong patient or site
  • Delaying or skipping a needed medical procedure
  • Giving the wrong type or dosage of medication

It's essential that all instructions and information a person's medical team receives are correct.


It is no secret that understaffing is an issue in the health care industry. Nurses often have too many assignments, doctors have little time with patients, and medical professionals may have to work long back-to-back shifts with no sleep. A heavy workload can lead to miscommunication, and fatigue can impair memory, awareness and motor skills.

Failure to meet the expected standard of care

Perhaps the worst cause of medical mistakes is failure to meet the expected standard of care. For example, a nurse may cut corners in preparing for or performing a task, or a surgeon may show up under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These actions are a violation of trust and medical ethics. It is important to choose medical establishments and providers with high reputations and low rates of malpractice to reduce the possibility of harm.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm as the result of medical malpractice, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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