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The United States healthcare system is complex, which leaves room for potential medical errors, many of which are preventable. In a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly one in four Americans admitted to United States hospitals will experience some medical error and harm. 

It is essential to differentiate a medical error from medical malpractice. A medical error has been defined as an unintentional act that does not achieve the intended action plan. Medical malpractice is the damage or loss to a patient caused by the failure of the healthcare provider or system to render proper medical services, either because of negligence, lack of expertise, or even criminal intent. 

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These are some common error-prone situations:  

Failure to order, perform, or act on laboratory tests/results A patient has high blood glucose levels, and a logical action is never taken. 
Wrong treatment A surgery or procedure is performed on the wrong side or patient. These situations are called “never events,” meaning they should never occur. 
Medication errors and adverse drug events Many medications are considered high-risk; therefore, most healthcare institutions have safeguards that minimize the error potential. 
Examples include selecting the wrong medication, misheard or misread drug orders, unsafe “overrides” with automated medication dispensing cabinets, and wrong-route injections.   
Injury from falls and immobility Several factors increase a patient’s fall risk, including medication side effects, age, altered mental status, or decreased strength. 
Some of these factors are unmodifiable, while others are preventable. Healthcare providers must identify high-risk fall patients and implement fall prevention measures. 
Surgical errors Surgical errors continue to occur at a high rate in the United States. This can be due to a lack of adequate surgeon training and education, gaps in communication between the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses, poor staffing, time pressures, distraction, or incomplete pre-operative assessments. 
Misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis The overall misdiagnosis rate is approximately 10% to 15% and is possible for virtually all medical specialties. 
The most common diagnostic error occurs in the primary care setting, where the provider fails to order appropriate tests or interpret the results correctly, which leads to failing to follow up and refer appropriately. 
Delaying treatment after diagnosis is the third most common error. Some common missed diagnoses are appendicitis, hypertension, pneumonia, and adverse effects of medication. 

Medical malpractice cases are rarely straightforward and are often complicated by the substantial resources required, the complexity of the evidence, and the inherent bias toward medical professionals. These cases require understanding the standard of care for that medical specialty (e.g., emergency medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, or pediatrics) and a deep insight into the technical skills and medical issues involved. 

To effectively argue a case, a medical malpractice attorney must establish and prove the four elements of malpractice, which include: 

  1. Duty to the patient: Was the doctor or medical professional responsible for the patient’s care? This element of malpractice establishes the relationship between the patient and the medical provider as it relates to the injury. 
  2. Negligence or breach of duty: Was the doctor or medical professional negligent in caring for this patient? This element of malpractice considers the standard of care.  The standard of care is defined in terms of what care a reasonable provider in the same community with similar training or experience would have provided for the patient. 
  3. Causation: Did the act or omission of the act cause a poor outcome for the patient? This element of malpractice is established by proving the medical professional’s action or inaction directly resulted in an adverse outcome. 
  4. Damages: This refers to compensation for loss or injury, medical bills, and punitive damages incurred to the patient due to the injury sustained in the medical malpractice claim. 
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While these cases are among the most challenging to try, with the guidance and expertise of The Ghuneim Law Firm, a patient could have grounds to file a lawsuit. If you or someone you love has been harmed by any medical error or negligent medical provider, please get in touch with us at 833-GHU-NEIM or 281-487-8929 to schedule a free consultation. 


Bates, D. W., Levine, D. M., Salmasian, H., Syrowatka, A., Shahian, D. M., Lipsitz, S., Zebrowski, J. P., Myers, L. C., Logan, M. S., Roy, C. G., Iannaccone, C., Frits, M. L., Volk, L. A., Dulgarian, S., Amato, M. G., Edrees, H. H., Sato, L., Folcarelli, P., Einbinder, J. S., … Mort, E. (2023a). The safety of inpatient health care. New England Journal of Medicine, 388(2), 142–153. 

Bono MJ, Wermuth HR, Hipskind JE. Medical Malpractice. [Updated 2022 Oct 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from:

Karande S, Marraro GA, Spada C. Minimizing medical errors to improve patient safety: An essential mission ahead. J Postgrad Med. 2021 Jan-Mar;67(1):1-3. doi: 10.4103/jpgm.JPGM_1376_20. PMID: 33533744; PMCID: PMC8098882.

Rodziewicz TL, Houseman B, Hipskind JE. Medical Error Reduction and Prevention. [Updated 2023 May 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: