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The greatest mistake is to imagine that we never err

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In medicine, error in knowledge or error in judgement can widely influence one’s health. Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) published a study in 2013 stating that more than 4.3 crore people are injured worldwide each year due to unsafe medical care. One study reported more than 50 lakh medical errors happening in India alone.

India is a booming economy. Our targets are to reach a five trillion economy by 2025. To be able to achieve that the workforce should be capable. The age-old adage health is wealth still holds true. The health of a worker greatly influences his/her work output. Good health also improves learning abilities of children, and leads to better educational outcomes. The reverse is also true that better wealth leads to better nutrition and access to quality healthcare. While 70% of India is living in semi-urban and rural areas, 80% of India’s healthcare facilities are located in urban/metro areas. This discrepancy sometimes leads to paucity of healthcare professionals able to provide quality healthcare to each and everyone. Over the past decade, healthcare facilities have improved across India with institutes mirroring or in some cases exceeding the quality of health care provided in developed nations. Yet no one is immune to an error.

Most medical errors are unintentional or circumstantial, but patients or families can pay a heavy price for it. As a consumer of healthcare facilities, a patient and the family deserves the best of the care to minimise the adverse events of the planned treatment option. A doctor always pours his/her heart and soul to study medicine and will strife for the best care for his/her patients. Still as we say to “err is human” it’s always safer to take a second opinion. Even while buying a car or settling for a job we try to pick and choose and take second opinion from family and friends, when it comes to medical care the concept of second opinion is viewed with disgust or a lack of trust.

A confident doctor never discourages any patient from taking a second opinion because that frees the patient to take an informed decision and further deepens the trust between the doctor and the patient. Lack of trust in the medical field has led to a state of constant agony amongst health care providers and seekers. One of the key factors in driving this mistrust is lack of enough second opinions. There are no “agendas” behind the treatment plan provided by a healthcare professional. But sadly no procedure or a drug taken is devoid of adverse effects, some are minor and some may be life threatening. A second opinion from an unrelated doctor, with no bias for or against the original treatment plan can be life altering or sometimes life saving.

As humans we strive for validation, be it with our work or our social circle or our place in family. An unbiased second opinion from an unrelated doctor provides the validation needed to instill confidence in the suggested treatment plan.

Orlando Aloysius Battista (a Canadian-American chemist and author) once said “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it”. This is more true in the medical field, an honest second opinion can prevent that mistake.

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