In 1999 the Institute of Medicine reported that as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals every year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented. Their report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System states:
Medical errors can be defined as the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. Among the problems that commonly occur during the course of providing health care are adverse drug events and improper transfusions, surgical injuries and wrong-site surgery, suicides, restraint-related injuries or death, falls, burns, pressure ulcers, and mistaken patient identities. High error rates with serious consequences are most likely to occur in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments.
In 2010, The Doctors Company began capturing data on human factors that contribute to patient injury in malpractice claims. Of the over 14,000 claims, 13 percent included at least one human factor that influenced the outcome of care. One of those factors is physician fatigue. Long hours treating life threatening conditions can have an impact on emergency medicine physicians. Many complex procedures are performed in the emergency department which may result in complications and lead to claims of negligence. When an emergency medicine physician is charged with negligence, an experienced and board certified ER expert witness is hired to evaluate the charges and give an unbiased report on his or her findings. These experts are trained to opine on the treatment of trauma patients, injuries such as lacerations and broken bones, as well heart attacks and strokes.