WMU News

Errors in medical profession to be addressed in ethics talk

Feb. 9, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- How error-free is your health care system? The issue of medical errors and the extent of harm to patients and society at large will be addressed in a free, public presentation Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Shirley Bach, associate director of the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and professor emerita of philosophy, will discuss "Medical Mistakes and Professional Responsibility" at 7:00 p.m. in Room 105 of the Bernhard Center. In addition to speaking about the ethical responsibilities involved in responding to and managing medical error, Bach will highlight findings and recommendations detailed in a recent report, "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health Care System," released by the Institute of Medicine.

"Between 40,000 and 98,000 deaths occur each year due to medical error," says Bach, who has taught courses in biomedical and health care ethics at WMU for 20 years. "Many things can be done to reduce those errors if we focus attention on it."

Bach said the present system of dealing with medical error is inadequate because many mistakes are going unreported and the likelihood of harm to patients is high. She said the institute's report demonstrates the need to design a health care system that takes into account how medical errors occur and ensures those errors are reported once they happen.

"If we want mistakes to be reported we must ensure that people not be sanctioned," says Bach, who serves on the hospital ethics committees of Borgess Medical Center and Bronson Methodist Hospital, and the research committees at Borgess and the West Michigan Cancer Center. "Health care practitioners are keeping quiet instead of owning up to mistakes for fear of medical liability suits."

For more information on the presentation topic, contact Bach at (616) 387-5379.

Media contact: Pauline Oo, 616 387-8400, pauline.oo@wmich.edu

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