Can Doctors in Bangladesh Make Mistakes?

Dr. Ahmed Hossain

27 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Can Doctors in Bangladesh Make Mistakes?

There is no statistics in Bangladesh that how many Bangladeshis each year die in hospitals of preventable medical errors – and probably we are afraid of doing this estimation. Another partial reason could be we really are not ferreting out the problem as we should. According to a study in 2016 by Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately, we do not have any statistics like that.

We have to accept that our physicians are not robots and for this they are not doing things the same way each time. Besides, patients do not tell their stories to the physicians in the same way each time. Therefore, the mistakes are inevitable but we do not have courage to accept our mistakes. Now the question is why the physicians need to admit their mistakes when it creates “break to battle” type scenarios against the patients. Not only that, it shows the weakness of the physicians. That is why the physicians stand alone when their learning and beliefs are challenged fairly.

Our physicians are dedicated and caring people but they are human. So they can apologise and be humble to the patients for their mistakes. Definitely, nobody is not proud of making mistakes, but strives to learn one thing from what happened in order to teach somebody else. The physicians can point out other people’s mistakes, not in a gotcha way, but in a loving, supportive way so that everybody can learn. However, this is not the kind of medical culture we have. Our culture stays with the belief that our health care system is foolproof and there are no mistakes.

Our medical culture does not have practice to talk about the mistakes. The physicians do not tell what really happened or they do not share with their colleagues about their experience for a particular case study where they could do better in terms of medication and practice. That is why, in our culture a physician does not teach other physicians about what he or she did so that the physicians do not do the same thing. Even our renowned consultants with many degrees get uncomfortable talking about the subjects of their mistakes. We are moving on with this kind of medical culture.

The reality is, if you weeded out all the physicians who make errors, there would not be anybody left. The physicians work in a culture of medicine that acknowledges that human beings run the system, and that they will make mistakes from time to time. The patients are ignorant about the unnecessary medical procedures for the diagnosis of a disease. The patients are also victim of over-prescription sometimes. This is getting usual practice by our doctors because they are encouraged by drug companies to promote their products. It is therefore very important to compel their colleagues to admit their mistakes. This way they will always strive to learn one thing that can pass on to other people.

This writing is inspired by a TEDex talk by Brian Goldman. The talk from Youtube caught me off guard, in that I thought our healthcare system, including doctors, would foster a culture of free and open reporting and voluntary acknowledgement of errors and omissions. The objective of this write-up is not to harm or blame any profession but quickly identifying effective measures that will either prevent or reduce the risk of similar occurrences.


The writer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health, North South University. E-mail: [email protected]