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Tag: Patient Safety

When is a Medical Error a Crime? by Bob Wachter

Bob Wachter is one of the nation’s leading experts on medical safety and one of the pioneers of the hospitalist movement. And now he’s descending into the mire of blogging! So we’re pleased to cross post one of the more recent pieces from his (relatively) new blog Wachter’s World.

Robert_wachterThe first commandment of the modern patient safety movement was “Thou Shalt Not Blame.”
Old-Think:
errors are screw-ups by “bad apples,” and can only be prevented by some
combination of shaming and suing the doctor or nurse holding the
smoking gun. New-Think: errors represent “system problems;” any
attempt to assess blame will drive providers underground, inhibiting
the free-flow of information so crucial to error prevention. Like
most complicated issues in life, the truth lives somewhere between
these polar views. In the main, the “no blame” view is right – most
errors are committed by good, hardworking docs and nurses, and
finger-pointing simply distracts us from the systems fixes that can
prevent the next fallible human being from killing someone.Yet,
taken to extremes, the no blame argument has always struck me as both
naive and more than a little PC. Anyone who has practiced for more than
a month can name docs and nurses who they would never want caring for
their loved ones. And what about the substance-abusing nurse, the
internist who doesn’t keep up with the literature, the
retractor-throwing surgeon, or the provider who refuses to follow
reasonable safety rules. If nobody is ever to blame, who is
accountable?

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