Ninety people die every day in Italy due to medical "errors"according to the Italian Association of Oncology which is currently holding a national convention in Milan.

Overall, medical errors account for 30-35,000 deaths a year, which greatly exceeds the individual yearly total of deaths caused by road accidents, heart attacks or cancer.

The Tribunal for Patients' Rights has disclosed that 32 per cent of these fatalities occur on the operating table, 28 per cent during the in-hospital recovery period, 22 per cent while in the emergency department and 18 per cent doctors' surgeries.

The specialised departments with the highest risk factor are orthopaedic (16,5 per cent), oncology (13 per cent) and maternity wards (10,8 per cent).

There is also a high incidence of patients taking the wrong medicines owing to confusion between drugs with similar names.

According to the Italian Association of Oncology half of the fatalities could be avoided by improving the organisation of health structures.

Besides the cost in human life, the financial expenses incurred are tantamount to 10 billion equal to one per cent of the country's gross domestic product.