What is death by misadventure?

Death by misadventure is a term used to classify any death caused by accidental means. In situations labelled as a “death by misadventure,” the deceased is understood to have voluntarily undertaken some sort of risk that led to their untimely end—a fact that distinguishes this term from a ruling like “accidental death.”

In medical terms, “misadventure” refers to personal injury or adverse reaction occurring as an unintended result of surgery or other medical treatment. There are six different diagnosis codes in the ICD-10 code set that relate to medical misadventure. These codes—ranging from Y62 through Y69—include the following:

  • Y62 - failure of sterile precautions during surgical and medical care
  • Y63 - failure in dosage during surgical and medical care
  • Y64 - contaminated medical or biological substances
  • Y65 - other misadventures during surgical and medical care
  • Y66 - non-administration of surgical and medical care
  • Y69 - unspecified misadventure during surgical and medical care

Why is death by misadventure important in healthcare?

Death by misadventure is an important way for both law enforcement and medical officials to determine responsibility in a situation where someone has died.

In a hospital setting, doctors use the appropriate misadventure ICD-10 codes to document accidental injury or death for both medical reporting and reimbursement purposes. This documentation provides opportunities for healthcare professionals to later assess the nature of each injury or death, and to identify potential gaps in care delivery or other areas for care improvement.