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The mis-education of the American physician?

Approximately 100,000 patients die every year because of doctor errors. Furthermore, about one-third of patients who stay in hospitals are harmed during their stays. With such an alarming rate of doctor errors and the often tragic and preventable consequences of medical malpractice, attempts to identify the underlying causes of the most serious errors have increased substantially.

In an op-ed recently published in the Washington Post, one writer attempted to expand the scope of the sources and causes of doctor errors to include new, unchartered territory. The writer argued that one reason for the high rate of error might be the American approach to medical education.

Medical training in the United States is very similar to other scholastic endeavors. Students spend much of their time in classrooms, memorizing facts and figures from academics who may have spent much of their careers buried behind books and cloistered among fellow intellectuals and researchers.

While these professors are often very good at teaching the hard science behind medicine, such as chemistry and biology, they often lack the experience necessary to impart the wisdom required to be a good bedside or operating room physician. Often, this wisdom can only be gained through hands-on experience working with patients.

The often less linear and more subjective components of patient care include knowing when to delve deeper into a patient's medical history or personal habits, knowing when to subject a patient to further testing or consider alternative treatments or, simply, when to behave more like a caring, compassionate fellow human and less like a cold, objective, scientifically-focused medical investigator.

While medical schools are certainly not the sole source of doctor error, using education as a means to improve the quality of healthcare and reduce the rate of error is certainly a move in the right direction. Furthermore, since no level of improvement will ever completely negate the potential for doctor error, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help protect your rights if a medical error does happen.

Source: The Washington Post, "America's medical education needs major surgery," Marty Nemco, Jan. 5, 2012

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