MistakesBMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7136.1026 (Published 28 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1026
- George Dunea, attending physician
- Cook County Hospital, Chicago, USA
Last year the newspapers reported that doctors in Florida had amputated the wrong leg of a patient with diabetes and that technicians in the same community hospital had removed the wrong patient from ventilator support. Missed diagnoses are claimed to be found in 40% of autopsies; 5-10% of hospital admissions are said to result in iatrogenic injury; and 10-20% of these have been classified as serious, a statistic extrapolated to 150 000 Americans dying each year—a “hidden epidemic,” comparable with a jumbo jet aeroplane crashing every few days.
That errors may occur in medicine has long been taken for granted, given the complexity …