UT Professor Says Focus on Safety, Not Blame

KNOXVILLE – Response to a report on medical errors from the Institute of Medicine should focus on patient safety and not blame, a University of Tennessee professor said Friday.

The report says medical mistakes are among the leading causes of death in America, above accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.

-Focusing on the issue is what is really important. The goal should be to approach the problem and address it systematically, not place blame on individuals,- Dr. Glenn Graber said.

The report should not cause undue alarm, but doctors and patients need to work together for the safety of the patients, said Graber, professor of philosophy and former chair of the UT Medical Center ethics committee.

Graber said hospitals should have a responsibility to report problems and find procedures that will avoid the opportunity for medical mistakes, and patients need to get more involved in their care.

-Patients should be active participants in their medical treatment. They need to ask questions. That is the best safeguard.-

The report says most medical mistakes are not due to recklessness, but from basic laws in the way the system is organized. For example, illegible handwriting and the need to dilute certain full-strength drugs before administering them, contributes to the possibility of deadly mistakes.