clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

9 facts about medical errors you should know before entering a hospital

You might not think health care harms many people. Most people don't.


But that's wrong. Way wrong. Harm from medical care is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

That 210,000 figure? It's terrifyingly high.

errors jets

Depending on which figures you use, medical errors are either the 3rd or 9th leading cause of death in America.


Some errors are obvious, and terrible — like when surgeons forget an object in their patient.


But the most common errors? They're more mundane things, like bedsores — those happen when a bed-ridden patient doesn't move for a long period of time.

medical errors1

Of those 500,000 people, 58,000 will die during that hospital visit.

Lots of times doctors don't tell patients when something goes wrong.

But improvement can happen. We have proof that concerted efforts to reduce errors can work.


You can read more about that checklist here.

That's important. Whether we reduce medical errors is, quite literally, a matter of life or death.


Vox is at the start of a year-long series on fatal medical errors, where we'll explore why they happen, how big the problem is, and what health care providers are doing to fix it. You can read the first story in our series here. Reporting for this series is sponsored by by the Association of Health Care Journalists' Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance and supported by The Commonwealth Fund.

Have you or a loved one experienced harm as a patient?

Vox and ProPublica would like to hear from patients who have been harmed while undergoing medical care. You can fill out our Patient Harm Questionnaire here.