Why does medical malpractice happen?

Medical malpractice is problematic in the U.S. This country has higher rates of errors in health care than other developed countries. Estimates of deaths put medical mistakes as number three on the list of top causes of American fatalities. Some believe the numbers are too high, but either way, it is hard to be accurate, as many hospitals do not report most incidents.

Malpractice can range from making a mistake in surgery or missing a diagnosis to failing to provide proper treatment in a timely manner. It can mean contaminating patients due to a lack of hand washing or harming them with the wrong medication. Regardless of what happens, the real question is why? With such advances in technology, why are these mistakes still happening at such high rates?


Overall, 44% of physicians experience burnout, reports the American Medical Association. Those in the fields of urology, neurology and physical medicine/rehab have the highest amounts of stress. When doctors become overwhelmed, their performance suffers. Healthcare professionals also do not get enough sleep, a significant factor in preventing errors.

Poor recordkeeping

Interestingly, the top reason for burnout was "bureaucratic tasks" such as filling out paperwork and charts. While this duty is more complicated than necessary, it is, nonetheless, vital to complete paperwork accurately and thoroughly, as poor recordkeeping is a leading source of medical malpractice. Sometimes, it is the fault of using different computer systems and not connecting them for easier transference of patient information.

Knowledge gaps

As educated as doctors are, it is impossible for them to know everything. General practitioners must know a little about a lot of medical topics and cannot delve deeper into every area. That is what specialists are for, but even they are only knowledgeable in their respective fields. It takes a team to properly diagnose and treat patients with rare or complicated diseases.

Unfortunately, doctors sometimes think they know the answer and do not refer patients to an expert. This is why it is vital for patients to seek a second opinion.

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