Errors in medicine: punishment versus learning medical adverse events revisited - expanding the frame

Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2023 Apr 1;36(2):240-245. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0000000000001235. Epub 2023 Jan 23.


Purpose of review: Despite healthcare workers' best intentions, some patients will suffer harm and even death during their journey through the healthcare system. This represents a major challenge, and many solutions have been proposed during the last decades. How to reduce risk and use adverse events for improvement?

Recent findings: The concept of safety culture must be acknowledged and understood for moving from blame to learning. Procedural protocols and reports are only parts of the solution, and this overview paints a broader picture, referring to recent research on the nature of adverse events. The potential harm from advice based on faulty evidence represents a serious risk.

Summary: Focus must shift from an individual perspective to the system, promoting learning rather than punishment and disciplinary sanctions, and the recent opioid epidemic is an example of bad guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Medical Errors*
  • Punishment*
  • Safety Management