Intended for healthcare professionals

Editor's Choice

When things go wrong

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b4226 (Published 15 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4226

To err is human, to forgive divine (Alexander Pope)

Despite our best efforts, we are all fallible and make mistakes. Some of these mistakes are trivial, while others are serious, and even fatal. How can we best cope with our fallibility? First, we must recognize and accept our fallibility as inevitable. Second, we must provide safeguards for our fallibility, such as checklists and oversight by colleagues. Third, we must treat our mistakes with acknowledgment and apology, not denial and cover-ups. And finally, we must analyze our mistakes, in order to avoid repeating them. Fallibility is an inherent part of the human condition, and we must not be ashamed of our humanity.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 October 2009
Hugh Mann
Physician
Eagle Rock, MO 65641 USA