Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Abandon the term “second victim”

Supporting doctors who make mistakes

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 17 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2161
  1. Rebecca Lawton, professor of psychology of healthcare1,
  2. Judith Johnson, lecturer1,
  3. Gillian Janes, senior research fellow2,
  4. Robbie Foy, professor of primary care1,
  5. Ruth Simms-Ellis, theme manager, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Yorkshire and Humber1
  1. 1University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
  2. 2Bradford Institute for Health Research, Temple Bank House, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Bradford BD9 6RJ, UK
  1. r.j.lawton{at}

The term “second victim” is provocative, and to those who have lost loved ones to medical error, it may seem abhorrent.1 We agree that current systems often fail patients who are harmed and their families, not least by excluding them from investigations into what went wrong.

Our research shows that the current adversarial approach does nothing to support learning and improvement. Rather, it perpetuates …

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