The possibility of medical error can be incredibly stressful for clinicians, as they adversely affect patients and often lead to malpractice suits and other damaging results. According to a StatPearls article, medical errors
are a leading cause of death in the US. Despite their frequency, however, there appears to be no consistent cause or strategy for reducing them.

The article suggests two types of classifications for medical error, the first being errors that take place due to inaction, or omission. For instance, forgetting to strap a patient into the wheelchair would be an error of omission. The second type of error takes place due to a wrong action, or commission. Examples include situations like ascribing a laboratory specimen to the incorrect patient or failing to diagnose, or refer for diagnosis, a patient with clear signs of lupus nephritis.

No ‘Safe Space’ To Discuss Medical Errors

According to Antonio Dajer, MD, the term “medical error” is a misnomer that discounts the factors in a medical case. Dr. Dajer notes that everything from rare, unexpected findings to time pressure to unforeseen distractions can yield suboptimal outcomes. Realistically, it is impossible for doctors to dodge unwanted outcomes throughout their entire careers, for they are, nonetheless, human.

In a StatNews article, Dr. Dajer mentions his frustration with the lack of safe spaces in which physicians in certain states can talk about medical error. States like New York, Florida, and California have gag laws that force doctors to keep quiet in medical error discussion.

New York State Education Law 6527 requires healthcare facilities to examine potential errors with peer and quality review committees while also restricting any person connected to the incident from speaking about it. People involved in the error are not permitted to be at investigative meetings. Dr. Dajer finds these policies both oppressive and counterproductive, noting that allowing the erring physician to discuss what happened will enable them, and others, to learn from the situation and potentially prevent such an error from recurring.

According to the StatPearls article, doctors are best served to take certain pre-emptive measures that improve their chances of avoiding medical error. For instance, physicians should take time to accurately label medications and should establish a “quiet zone” for organizing medications prior to administration.