This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the tragic death of Betsy Lehman, a health care reporter for the Boston Globe. She died from a medical error during her hospital treatment in Massachusetts.

A new poll conducted in Massachusetts two decades later finds that the problem of medical errors still exists, with nearly one in four Massachusetts adults (23 percent) reporting that they have personally been involved in a medical error situation in the past five years. This includes those who believe that a preventable medical error was made in their own care or in the care of someone close to them where they were very familiar with the care that person was receiving.

“Medical errors” were defined to poll respondents as the following: “Sometimes when people receive medical care, mistakes are made. These mistakes sometimes result in no harm; sometimes, they may result in additional or prolonged treatment, disability, or death. These types of mistakes are called medical errors.”

About half of those involved in a medical error situation (or 13 percent of total Massachusetts adults) said the medical error resulted in serious health consequences for the individual. Most of these medical errors (75 percent) occurred while the affected individuals were being treated at a hospital. Massachusetts residents believe that the more important cause of medical errors is mistakes made by individual physicians and nurses (52 percent) rather than by hospitals or clinics where they work (33 percent).

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