Better Chance of Dying Due to a Hospital Error Than In a Car Crash

It is relatively common knowledge that you have a better chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident than you do of dying in a plane crash. But most people probably do not realize that their odds of dying due to a health care error are actually much higher than the odds of dying in a car accident.

In fact, according to recently released information by the World Health Organization (WHO), the odds of being subjected to a medical mistake are one in 10, and the odds of dying due to a health care error are 1 in 300. These numbers “show that health care generally worldwide still has a long way to go,” said Liam Donaldson, WHO’s patient safety representative.

Based on WHO’s study, hundreds of millions of people suffer infections each year after visiting a doctor or being admitted to the hospital. It is believed that over half of these infections could be prevented simply by proper hand sanitization.

The nature of health care is a fast-paced, high-risk industry, where patients often encounter dozens of health care workers for even routine procedures. Because of the hectic nature of health care, it is not uncommon for short cuts, such as not using hand sanitizer or washing hands with soap and water before touching a patient, to occur.

In addition to infections, other common preventable medical errors include injuries from falls while in the hospital and medication errors. While patients may not be able to prevent certain injuries in hospitals, by being diligent and asking a lot of questions about the care and medication you receive, you may be able to prevent a medication overdose or infection. Do not be afraid to ask if a doctor or nurse has washed their hands or question what medication you are receiving and why.

Source:, “Going into hospital far riskier than flying: WHO,” Stephanie Nebehay, 21 July 2011.