Thursday, February 17, 2005

Food For Thought

Why do we expect perfection in medicine?
Is it because we realize that every single mistake one makes can potentially impact a patient in a big way?
But are physicians and surgeons not human beings?
Think about it, in another field, mistakes while frowned upon, are forgiven. Think about it. In the last one week, how often have you made a mistake at work, whether you're talking about miscalculating numbers, or remembering details of a meeting wrongly, or just not realizing you had made some typos on a report?
This came to mind when colleagues and I were discussing a recent case at lunch hour where an ER physician and the hospital were being sued for not recognizing that a child's multiple longbone fractures were in fact the result of child abuse. I mean, sure, it should have rang some alarm bells in his/her head, but Hey, the doc didn't abuse the kid. It's not like he was deliberately negligent (an oxymoron, if there ever was one).
This topic came up too on a busy day for me, having had perhaps too few hours of sleep last night working on my paper for that upcoming conference. Went to work sleepy despite that 750ml Starbucks coffee I carry to work everyday. Felt like my head wasn't screwed on right. At the start of the day, did some practice test questions with classmates (we're all taking the internal medicine boards in August) and made some silly mistakes. Which stupidly enough, really irritated me for the rest of the day. And then, had some demanding patients in the morning who rushed me, resulting in my forgetting to write one of them a prescription for a medication besides his other 7 meds (as it turns out, it was for Sildenafil, otherwise known as Viagra). Had to phone him at home and tell him that I'd send the script to him. But that made me feel like a total moron.
So, why does the practice of medicine forbid mistakes? On one hand, it's obvious: lives can be at stake. But on the other hand, we're just human, not some superbeing.
Guess my clinic colleagues had a busy day too so this led to that topic at lunch.


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