The era when doctors were placed on pedestals – where they were considered to do no wrong – is over. This is as it should be. Doctors are human, and the medical clinics where they work are staffed by humans. Like all humans, they make mistakes. Any reasonable review of the available data shows that they make lots of mistakes.
This reality is acknowledged in a lead article published this week in the Wall Street Journal. The Biggest Mistake Doctors Make, Laura Landro, Wall Street Journal, Nov 18, 2013. (. The conclusions drawn in this article are (a) reliable data are now available to show that physicians make preventable diagnostic mistakes in a large percentage of their cases, and those mistakes lead to harm to a vast number of patients, and (b) the medical community and its government regulators should work hard, and in many cases are working hard, to reverse this reality and reduce those mistakes. Recent federal legislation is designed to improve communications and recordkeeping in the medical industry and thereby minimize medical and diagnostic mistakes. Medical industry leaders advocate new and better uses of technology to avoid these mistakes whenever possible. Academic leaders call for new avenues of physician training to reduce the errors and promote a change in the culture of the medical community so as to acknowledge mistakes when they do occur.
In our law firm, we have seen far too many medical and diagnostic mistakes. For more than 30 years, it has been our everyday job to provide help to those who have been harmed by medical and diagnostic mistakes. Our principal role is to seek justice for our injured clients through the courts. We believe that when doctors make preventable mistakes, they should be held accountable for the consequences, just like any one of us would be held accountable if we run a red light and cause harm. But we also do recognize that, in the bigger picture of the nation’s medical industry, every effort should be made to improve the way the system works and avoid these mistakes. We should all be supporters of these efforts, rather than just critics of government and industry leaders who spearhead this effort.