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Anyone may make a mistake about that. Atul in When Doctors Make Mistakes shows that even with years of experience and a strong knowledge of the high stakes inherent with medical practice, doctors are still making mistakes. I've even made a lot of mistakes in my life. For one noteworthy occasion, I was driving under the influence of alcohol. The consequences of my bad judgement have been devastating. The events of the fateful day have served as a lesson to me that, like Atul, even the best of us will make errors that sometimes have serious repercussions and that it is necessary to learn from these mistakes in order to prevent them in the future. Atul is a surgeon on duty at the emergency section of a hospital. When Louise Williams is brought in as an accident victim, Atul recommends intubation which is standard procedure in such cases. However, the unsuccessful intervention worsened the patient’s condition prompting a cricothyroidotomy which was still unsuccessful due to the delay in intervention. Atul explains that “things were relatively stable … but for whatever reasons – hubris, inattention, wishful thinking, hesitation, or the uncertainty of the moment – I let the opportunity pass” (Gawande 655). Luckily, an anesthesiologist intubated and saved the patient. Such errors are common across all levels of specialization and academic qualification. However, talking about this errors facilitates the process of their elimination altogether. This can be achieved through a learning process, since "not only do human beings err but they err frequently and in predictable, patterned ways. And systems that do not adjust for these realities can end up exacerbating rather than eliminating error” (Gawande 662). By altering the process rather than witch-hunting the individuals, anesthesiology has seen a revolutionary reduction in such incidences. With due diligence, perfection moves a step closer.
Just like Atul, I fell victim to the folly of mistakes during the summer break. Unlike our usual routine of going to McDonald’s my friends suggested getting drunk. I was skeptical but gave in. After a few swigs of alcohol, I refrained and sat back as it began to take effect. My friends kept at it for a little longer. Later, I was chosen to drive us home since I was the least intoxicated of the group. This was a mistake we should have avoided at all cost. However, Atul states that “Mistakes do happen. We think of them as aberrant; they are anything but” (Gawande 652). Confident in myself in spite of the occasional light headedness, I took the wheel. However, I started getting drowsy and lost control of the vehicle which swerved off the road.
Our little adventure had come to an abrupt end. I broke my arm while my friends sustained grave injuries which warranted hospital admission. Over the next few weeks, I had to attend counseling sessions about driving under the influence. Discussing the problem with my counselor and my peers revealed that mistakes are common. The brain’s natural tendency to efficiency often by-passes critical processes in decision-making which may predispose to seemingly careless mistakes. Atul explains that “our propensity for certain types of error is the price we pay for the brain’s remarkable ability to think and act intuitively” (Gawande 662). According to my counselor, my desire to impress my friends may have overridden my capacity to comprehend the risks of alcohol use.
The events of that fateful day reminded me that anyone is capable of making a mistake. Just like Dr. Atul, I made a mistake that would have been potentially fatal. Although even the best of us make mistakes which often have grave consequences, the lessons that we draw from these mistakes are more important because they protect us from making the same mistakes in future. The focus in addressing mistakes should, therefore, be more in the formulation of solutions and emphasis on lessons rather than on the assignment of blame.
Gawande, Atul. "Annals of Medicine: When Doctors Make Mistakes." New Yorker 1999. Print.
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