Journal Takes on Medical Mistakes: the first of a projected series of eight articles in which grave medical errors are reviewed and analyzed, with the doctors who committed them protected by anonymity, appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The series was inspired in part by a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, which found that mistakes in hospitals killed 44,000 to 98,000 patients a year. Departments within hospitals try to analyze their own errors, at regular “morbidity and mortality” conferences, but those sessions are private and are not written up in medical journals. Generally, the conferences are not discussed with patients. In an editorial about the new series, Dr. Wachter and his colleagues wrote that the medical profession “for reasons that include liability issues and a medical culture that has discouraged open discussion of mistakes” was not harnessing the full power of errors to teach. NY Times
Conflict of Interest?
However, is the concept of an independent, scholarly analysis of an aspect of medical practice, inspired simply by the lofty ideal of learning as much as we can from it for the betterment of patient care, an endangered species? Consider: Medical Journal Changes Independent Policy:
Is it a case of, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?’ The New England Journal of Medicine will announce Thursday that it has given up finding truly independent doctors to write and review articles and editorials for it, as a result of the financial ties physicians have with so many drug companies in the United States The Journal says the drug companies’ reach is just too deep. ABC News
This is truly bad news for the integrity of medical literature. Over the past two decades, as federal funding for medical research has dwindled dramatically, research has been increasingly ‘bought’ by pharmaceutical industry backing. Now the review and commentary end is getting bought too, it’s little stretch to say.