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Medical errors kill more than a quarter-million people every year in the United States. Here are 10 common medical mistakes and what you can do to protect yourself.
Adverse events can be defined as undesirable and unintentional, though not necessarily unexpected, results of medical treatment. An example of an adverse event is discomfort in an artificial joint that continues after the expected recovery period, or a chronic headache following a spinal tap.
A medical error, on the other hand, is an adverse event that could be prevented given the current state of medical knowledge. The QuIC task force expanded the IOM's working definition of a medical error to cover as many types of errors as possible. Their definition of a medical error is as follows: "The failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. Errors can include problems in practice, products, procedures, and systems." A useful, brief definition of a medical error is that it is a preventable adverse event.
The statistics contained in the IOM report were startling. The authors of the report stated that between 45,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year as the result of medical errors. If the lower figure is used as an estimate, deaths in hospitals resulting from medical errors are the eighth leading cause of mortality in the United States, surpassing deaths attributable to motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), and AIDS (16,516).