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Blame and its consequences for healthcare professionals: response to Tigard


Tigard (2019) suggests that the medical community would benefit from continuing to promote notions of individual responsibility and blame in healthcare settings. In particular, he contends that blame will promote systematic improvement, both on the individual and institutional levels, by increasing the likelihood that the blameworthy party will ‘own up’ to his or her mistake and apologise. While we agree that communicating regret and offering a genuine apology are critical steps to take when addressing patient harm, the idea that medical professionals should continue to ‘take the blame’ for medical errors flies in the face of existing science and threatens to do more harm than good. We contrast Dr Tigard’s approach with the current literature on blame to promote an alternative strategy that may help to create lasting change in the face of unfortunate error.

  • applied and professional ethics
  • education for healthcare professionals
  • medical error

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