Medical Mistakes Below Global Average, But Still High

Medical Mistakes Below  Global Average, But Still HighMedical Mistakes Below  Global Average, But Still High

Annually, 800 million medical services are provided across the country and the number of complaints filed by patients against the medical fraternity for negligence is around 12,000 to 13,000 each year, said Mohsen Khalili, head of the Disciplinary Office at Iran’s Medical Council on Monday.

As per figures released by the council, “medical errors occur in 0.1% of all services provided while the global average rate is between 3-5%,” IRNA quoted him as saying.

According to some medical experts, however, the actual rate of preventable medical harm is higher than the officially reported figures as physicians usually don’t disclose their mistakes to patients.  Moreover, in some cases patients don’t file complaints against doctors when they make minor errors of medical judgment.  

Medical errors can occur anywhere in the health care system: in hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and patients’ homes. Errors can involve medicine, surgery, diagnosis, equipment, or lab reports.

Khalili said lack of skilled hospital staff is the main reason for the incidence of medical errors. “As an example, at present, inadequate nurses in hospitals come in the way of providing quality nursing care; therefore errors (mostly in administering medication) occur.”

Based on statistics, in the last fiscal year that ended in March, the number of complaints against medical staff increased by 5% compared with two years earlier, and the figure continues to rise every year. Most of the errors were made by obstetricians and gynecologists, general physicians, dentists, orthopedic specialists, and ENT specialists.

Earlier in January, Dr. Kourosh Saki, head of Lorestan University of Medical Science in Khorramabad, had said a majority of medical errors in Iran occur in the field of gynecology followed by general surgery, dentistry and orthopedics. Every year, among the 5,000 medical error litigations referred to the courts, most are attributed to the field of gynecology.

Saki said delayed action in delivery and childbirth was one of the most common complaints. There are 10,000 gynecologists in the country.


Khalili further said that in 40-45% of the cases, complaints are registered for investigation. After a probe by courts, it is found that in 50% of the cases, medical staff including physicians and nurses are culpable.

Medical malpractice is a global problem that poses significant financial burden on the health system. Iranian victims often complain that they don’t receive adequate compensation for the damages resulting from physicians’ negligence. The aggrieved parties also say that the compensation payment is often delayed, reducing their chances of benefiting from early interventions.

Last winter, a woman was seriously injured when giving birth to twins by C-section delivery in Chamran Hospital, Tehran. During anesthesia, instead of an oxygen capsule, another gas was used which caused third degree burns in her respiratory tract and skin around her nose and lips.

The women and her husband who were unsatisfied with the services provided to them after the injury said only after extensive media coverage did the officials pay compensation for the grievous harm and performed the necessary surgeries to treat the lesions.”

  New Directive

Medical malpractice is caused by a number of reasons including the failure to act in a timely manner by a healthcare professional; but the main cause of error usually boils down to negligence. This means the failure to exercise the necessary degree of caution, care and skill by a competent medical practitioner or healthcare provider.

Prescription drug errors are another common form of medical malpractice; administering the wrong medication or wrong dosage, mislabeling drugs, prescribing medication that may be allergic or causes a harmful reaction, and failing to warn about the side effects are all attributed to errors by medical practitioners.

Medical errors “can’t be reduced to zero,” says Mohammad Aghajani, deputy minister of health for treatment. However, in order to reduce the rate of physician errors, a new directive on patient safety including a specific checklist and implementation of guidelines has been sent to all hospitals in the country.