When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error

Beacon Press. Apr. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780807037881. $26.95. MED
Ofri (New York Univ. Sch. of Medicine; What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear) investigates medical error, and explains it is possible to mitigate preventable harms. By analyzing case studies of patients who have experienced medical complications, Ofri, in an engaging and accessible way, makes a compelling argument that changes to the current medical system could have a substantial impact. Ofri’s narrative is at its best when admitting that eliminating error is impossible, but she believes it is still worth trying. In lieu of blaming people, the author recognizes that errors are the result of many breakdowns in the health care system, and she advocates for change that will benefit both doctor and patient alike. Myriad behaviors can lead to error, and Ofri confirms one being a breakdown of communication.
VERDICT Ofri’s latest book is a must-read for those looking to gain a glimpse into the complex environment in which medical professionals work as well as those who may have experienced subpar medical treatment. Her ideas about mitigating harm can save lives and may leave you wishing she was overseeing your own health care.
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