Is there an acceptable degree of human error in the medical profession?

Date: Jan 19, 2017

Even after years of training and decades on the job, the country’s medical professionals are still only human, which means there’s always the potential for mistakes to occur. In some events where a doctor, nurse or other professional has made an error that’s harmed a patient’s health and made their condition worse, it’s possible to launch a medical negligence claim.

However, a recent article from The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) reported on a scientific study which sought to find out just how avoidable human error is in the country’s hospitals.

The effects of human error can be mitigated

While it’s a message that some patients won’t want to hear, Visiting Professor of Nursing at Bournemouth University Jane Reid said that hospital leaders have to acknowledge that some degree of human error is unavoidable. However, that doesn’t mean that every mistake becomes excusable, and, in theory, acknowledging these issues should lead to a decrease in overall errors from medical professionals.

Professor Read noted there are a range of risks that should be almost completely avoidable. If hospitals work to ensure this is the case, professionals can divert more attention to larger issues within their practices.

“What we must do is mitigate risks that are inherent,” she began. “We can do this by focusing on avoidable harm – such as sepsis, ventilator-acquired pneumonia, pressure sores.”

She also explained that some events of negligence can’t be written off as mere accidents. Instead, she feels it’s important that leaders in these practices are enforcing the types of behaviours that will ensure positive outcomes for their patients and reduce the chances of accidents occurring. This include behaviours as basic as hand washing, which the AHHA reported can be as low as 70 per cent in some Australian hospitals.

“Are the staff who don’t wash their hands doing so intentionally, or are they accidentally omitting it from their routine? Are the facilities they work in conducive to it? Many of them are not,” Professor Reid explained. “These are the questions we have to ask ourselves when approaching similar situations.”

Industry website Nurse in Australia also investigated the attitudes and behaviours that can lead to common errors from the country’s medical professionals. These include people working while fatigued, those new to the role still getting used to their responsibilities and a general understaffing across the industry.

If you feel like you’ve been the victim of an act of medical negligence, it’s important to discuss the matter with specialist lawyers. Get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf and Partners to find out more.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.