Common Causes of Medical Malpractice at the Hospital

Man in hospital sitting on side of bed, holding head in hands

Each year, roughly 200,000 Americans are seriously injured or even lose their lives due to medical malpractice events in a hospital. While there are many causes for these events, some are more common than others and present a far greater risk to patients. For that reason, it’s important to not only understand the most common causes of medical malpractice at the hospital but to identify ways to prevent further instances from occurring.

Wrong Patient

Medical malpractice claims citing wrong patient and wrong procedure errors occur more than 7,000 times per year. This can mean that hospital staff administer medicine to the wrong patient, move a patient to the wrong department, or even perform surgery on the wrong person.

Not only do these errors prevent people from getting the correct treatment, receiving someone else’s care plan can exacerbate health issues. If, for example, doctors perform surgery on the wrong patient, that may mean a second surgery to reverse the damage, increased recovery time, risk of infection, and other health complications which would not have arisen otherwise.

Next time you’re in the hospital, be sure staff always verify your name and birth date any time they enter the room. The more often they verify your identity, the less likely they are to make a wrong-patient error.

Wrong Medication

Medication names are often complex and difficult to pronounce, but that is no excuse for making a medication error. In many cases, medication errors are due to staff confusing “look-alike” and “sound-alike” drugs and then administering them to patients. As a consequence of this error, sometimes called a “syringe swap,” unsafe dosages of the incorrect drug may cause severe health complications or even an overdose.

Worst of all, this error is widespread, accounting for about 20% of all medical malpractice cases. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more Americans lose their lives to hospital medications errors each year than die in fatal workplace accidents nationwide.

Failure to Monitor

Hospital equipment should be monitored constantly, especially when a patient’s health and safety are at stake. This error occurs when hospital staff fail to respond to vitals alerts or when they fail to intervene for a patient in distress.

While these cases can involve negligent nurses, they are more common during surgeries (especially those where an anesthetic is used) and birth. When doctors fail to monitor the patient’s vitals, the situation can quickly worsen, leading to disability or even death.


Each year, nearly 2 million Americans develop a “Hospital-Acquired Infection” (HAI). Of those, nearly 100,000 pass away because of their HAI. Patients over 65 are at a significantly increased risk of both developing an HAI and dying because of it.

Because these events are so common and serious, patients in the hospital must be informed of HAIs. Likewise, hospital staff must properly monitor them and ensure they are administering the correct medications.

The Snowball Effect

Instances of medical malpractice have a tendency to spiral and quickly exacerbate into something worse. Say, for example, that a doctor performs surgery on the wrong patient. That patient is not only at a higher risk of developing an HAI, but they require a second surgery to fix the error. This, in turn, opens them to more surgical errors and an extended hospital stay with an increased risk of experiencing medical malpractice each day.

If hospital staff are not constantly vigilant of proper identification, safety, and health monitoring procedures, these risks can compound and potentially lead to a serious or even fatal instance of medical malpractice.

If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries due to medical negligence, let us help. To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced New Hampshire medical malpractice attorney from Upton & Hatfield, LLP, don’t hesitate to call (603) 716-9777 or send us an email.

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