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Do No Harm

The first rule of medical ethics is to "do no harm" to the patient. Yet, upwards of 98,000 patients a year die in America from preventable medical errors, a number that appears to be on the rise. A recent Newsweek article examined how to reverse this trend. Successful hospital administrators have identified the problem as a pervasive cultural one of ignorance and arrogance, one that can be solved by (1) teaching doctors basic patient safety; (2) encouraging teamwork between doctors, pharmacists, and nurses; and (3) having zero tolerance for disrespectful, abusive behavior by doctors towards pharmacists, nurses, and technicians. Implementation can be as simple as giving doctors a checklist to follow for routine medical procedures and refusing to reimburse hospitals for preventable complications. Hospitals that have tried this approach have seen a reduction in the number of preventable complications and medical malpractice claims. Apparently, only by shifting from a doctor-centric culture to a patient-centric one will preventable errors become a thing of the past.