Medical errors kill more people than car crashes or new disease outbreaks. They kill more people annually than breast cancer, AIDS, plane crashes, or drug overdoses. Depending which estimate you use, medical errors are either the 3rd or 9th leading cause of death in the United States. Those left dead as a result of their medical care could fill an average-sized Major League Baseball stadium — sometimes twice over.
Medical errors tend to fall into two buckets. There are the mistakes that happen when doctors set a wrong plan: when they prescribe the wrong medication, for example, thinking it was the right treatment. Then there are the errors that occur when doctors set the right plan but don’t follow it — when messy handwriting means a patient gets the wrong drug dosage, for example, or when a surgeon operates on the wrong body part (yes, this actually happens).