Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Medical errors - and what if they didn't tell us?


Dr. Ernest Amory Codman.
Massachusetts General Hospital archives
Dr. Ernest Amory Codman.

We all are aware that, unfortunately, medical errors can and do occur. A recent example is of this New Zealand woman who was never told of her Her2 positive diagnosis for two years and didn't receive the correct treatment until it was too late.

But what if doctors never told us about treatment outcomes and what their error rates were? That would be pretty damn scary. No one likes to admit they made a mistake but as 'to err is human', it does happen.

But that's the way things used to be:

"Dr. Ernest Amory Codman was in his mid-40s when his golden career as a sought-after Harvard surgeon began to unravel. He had quit in exasperation from Massachusetts General Hospital, and when he took his dispute with hospital leaders public, colleagues turned against him. Many stopped sending him patients.

It was the early 1900s, and Codman was impatiently pushing hospitals and doctors to adopt a practice many considered heretical at the time: Record the “end results’’ for every patient — including harm caused by physicians’ errors — and make them public."

But now his work is being recognized:

"A century later, many of Codman’s ideas are the bedrock of modern medicine. And a group of doctors, including a former Mass. General surgery chief, plans to make sure he gets the wider appreciation he deserves this week." 

His work has led to many changes in medical practice, even if he wasn't appreciated during his life time. You can read here the whole story here but think of what medical practice would be like with out people like him pushing for change.

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