Response to Medical Mistakes video

Based on my previous posting of Dr. Brian Goldman’s TED talk, I engaged in some stimulating conversations with my two very critical-minded medicine and surgical resident friends. I got some new insight on the medical culture around human error with the perspective of those actually in the field.

1. Doctors are already familiar with learning from past mistakes.

Medical students in North American schools have already begun implementing educational structures that foster a new culture of learning through past mistakes. For example, Morbidity & Mortality Conferences have been recognized for at least a decade and is regularly taught in medical school. Maybe Dr. Goldman is just redeeming himself for his own past errors… or maybe he is just illustrating a picture for old-school doctors…. bottom line: times have changed, this is old news.

2. To compare the performance of medical professionals to a ‘batting average’ is unrealistic and making a mockery of the system.

It is understood that while batting an average of 1000 is unrealistic, any practitioner/resident/student will still aim to achieve better averages at each step of the process. Learning and trying to improve after each patient encounter or case is how you become an expert. There is no sense in beating yourself up over your mistakes. Today’s medical students understand that. You can practice until perfect yet there will always be curveballs and by definition of curveballs, you can’t hit them 100% of the time.

3. Lastly, the perspective that Dr. Goldman presents may be site specific. 

Toronto is a different city with a particular type of attitude. You may have heard the rumours that Toronto is a pretentious city. I wouldn’t disagree having lived in there for the majority of my life. Having said that, it is not accurate to believe that this behaviour and attitude among doctors exists everywhere. Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it is not sensible to humour any fear mongering attempts.

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