You are much more likely to die as a result of a medical mistake, called “medical malpractice,” than you are to die in a plane crash! As an injury lawyer, I see the effects of mistakes and even neglect, especially in nursing homes. Infections, wrong location surgeries and medication errors make a trip to a hospital far more dangerous than a long trip on a 747. Flying is so relatively safe, in fact, that the most dangerous part of a trip on a plane is the drive to the airport.
That being said, many more people avoid flying than are able to avoid a hospital stay. Doctors and nurses almost always do the best they can, but even they will admit that malpractice occurs, despite their valiant efforts.
It is widely agreed that 98,000 deaths occur each year due to all kinds of medical mistakes–the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing every other day. According to a congressionally mandated study on Medicare recipients, during 2008, 1 in 7 hospital patients experienced at least one unintended-harm that prolonged his or her stay, caused permanent injury, required life-sustaining treatment, or resulted in death. In a 2004 study, 20 out of 40 doctors’ ties were contaminated with dangerous bacteria. These ties can spread infections person to person. One study found harmful staph bacteria on 17 out of 84 stethoscopes!
Nevertheless, the actual odds of something happening rarely seem to affect our behavior. For instance, millions will enter lotteries this year. The largest jackpots have odds of winning in the neighborhood of 1 in 175 million.
There are many things that are far more likely to happen to you than winning the biggest lottery. You are far more likely to be killed by a pit bull, injured by a vending machine or die in a bathtub than win the largest jackpot. However, it’s not impossible. In fact, you are slightly more likely that to win it, than are your odds of being killed by a falling coconut.