After Harm

In a recent article in the New Yorker, physician Atul Gawande detailed how badly the American health-care system deals with physician error; the system, he contended, serves neither the patient nor the physician very well. But what can be done?

Nancy Berlinger has a proposal. She asks not how to reduce the incidence of error, though that is a worthy goal, but how we should treat one another after mistakes have been made.

Berlinger relies on her background in religious studies and on clinical examples to formulate her answer, which is relatively simple. She argues that when a mistake has been made, the parties should admit to one another that it has happened and seek to assist the persons harmed by the mistake so their lives can go forward.

 

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