Intended for healthcare professionals


Uncomfortable viewing

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 07 October 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:904
  1. Christopher Martyn
  1. BMJ

    Why doctors make mistakes Channel 4, Mondays at 9 pm, 2 to 17 October

    Screw ups, slip ups, and cock ups; miscalculations, misjudgments, and misdiagnoses. That, I'm sorry to have to tell you, is this four part series's, appraisal of our professional performance.

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    Individuals are rarely to blame

    Don't be tempted to dismiss the multiple and often ghastly examples of medical error catalogued by these programmes as outliers in a healthcare system that usually operates safely or as a tendentious list compiled by a producer with an axe to grind. They're not. The Harvard medical practice study kicked away these props to our self esteem 10 years ago when the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It reported that adverse events—defined as injuries caused by medical management that prolonged duration of admission or produced disability at the time of discharge—occurred in nearly 4% of hospitalisations. These findings have been replicated since. Now there's anger that the medical …

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