A recent US document published by the Institute of Medicine showed that up to 98,000 people die in the US each year due to medical error more than die in motor vehicle accidents.

In response to the report, UK psychologists Charles Vincent (University College London) and James Reason (University of Manchester) believe that errors committed by doctors must be viewed in the context of the complex organisational systems in which they work and, when a doctor fails, it is due to a lack of support from the system.

In the same issue (Lancet, 2000; 355: 947-8), however, R.E. Ferner and J.K. Aronson, of the West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting, also noted that the healthcare profession has lagged far behind other high risk professions in its efforts to reduce risk.

The search for a work able plan to protect patients from medical errors continues. The US Congress has proposed a bill the Medical Error Reduction Act whichwould make the reporting and studying of medical errors compulsory.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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