Clarification of terminology in medication errors: definitions and classification

Robin Ferner, JK Aronson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

145 Citations (Scopus)


We have previously described and analysed some terms that are used in drug safety and have proposed definitions. Here we discuss and define terms that are used in the field of medication errors, particularly terms that are sometimes misunderstood or misused. We also discuss the classification of medication errors. A medication error is a failure in the treatment process that leads to, or has the potential to lead to, harm to the patient. Errors can be classified according to whether they are mistakes, slips, or lapses. Mistakes are errors in the planning of an action. They can be knowledge based or rule based. Slips and lapses are errors in carrying out an action - a slip through an erroneous performance and a lapse through an erroneous memory. Classification of medication errors is important because the probabilities of errors of different classes are different, as are the potential remedies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-22
Number of pages12
JournalDrug Safety
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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