Context: Although much has been said and written about medical error and about error in pathology since the publication of the Institute of Medicine's report on medical error in 1999, precise definitions of what constitutes error in anatomic pathology do not exist for the specialty. Without better definitions, it is impossible to accurately judge errors in pathology. The lack of standardized definitions has implications for patient care and for the legal judgment of malpractice.
Objectives: To review the goals of anatomic pathology, to discuss the problems inherent in applying these goals to the judgment of error in pathology, to offer definitions of major and minor errors in pathology, and to discuss error in anatomic pathology in relation to the classic laboratory test cycle.
Data sources: Existing literature.
Conclusion: Definitions for major and minor error in anatomic pathology are proffered, and anatomic pathology error is characterized in the classic test cycle.