Facts & Figures

  • Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die every year as a result of medical errors (IOM, 1999).
  • Medical errors are more deadly than breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents, or AIDS (IOM, 1999).
  • The FDA states that there is at least one death per day and 1.3 million people are injured each year due to medication errors (The Prescription, 2005).
  • Medication error is one of the top ten causes for death among children (Wrong Diagnosis, 2009).
  • The most common type of medical error is a medication error.
  • Medication errors harm one in every 15 children in U.S. hospitals (The Joint Commission, 2008).
  • There were 181,000 severe injuries attributable to medical negligence in 2003. (Congressional Budget Office, 2008).
  • About 18 percent of patients in hospitals are injured during the course of their care and many of those injuries are life-threatening, or even fatal (New England Journal of Medicine, 2010).
  • One in seven Medicare patients are injured during hospital stays and adverse events during the course of care contribute to the deaths of 180,000 patients every year (Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, 2010).
  • Medication errors harm an estimated 1.5 million Americans each year, resulting in upward of $3.5 billion in extra medical costs (IOM, 2006).
  • In the United States, one out of 20 hospitalized patients contract health care-acquired infection (HAIs). These complications of care lead to extra time in the hospital and longer recovery times (National Patient Safety Foundation).
  • Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to medication errors because:
    • Most health care facilities are organized around adults.
    • Children are less able to tolerate a medication error.
    • Most medications are made and packaged for adults.
    • Young children cannot communicate about adverse effects that they experience.

Dosing errors are the most common kind of medication error for children. Medication errors are more frequent among the sickest patients who have urgent and complex medical conditions. Physicians who are less experienced, tired, depressed and burnt out make more errors (Kozer, Adis International, 2009).

The single most important way to prevent medical errors is to be an active and vocal member of your health care team. You can do this by Speaking Up.