The medical profession needs to take a page from the airline industry and create a culture of safety, according to emergency room physician Dr. Brian Goldman.
Goldman will make the case for why Canadian doctors need to talk more about the mistakes that happen everyday in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings, during a talk on Saturday afternoon at Vanier Hall, sponsored by the Citizen and Northern Health.
The best-selling author and host of CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art medical program said physicians and medical professionals need to stop feeling ashamed of their mistakes and start learning from them.
"I think most health practitioners receive the implicit message that they're supposed to be perfect and that they're not supposed to make mistakes," he said. "Mistakes in that context become an uncomfortable thing that we don't like to talk about."
Goldman's presentation on Saturday will build on the hugely popular Tedx Talk he did on the subject in 2011, which has been viewed more than 800,000 times.
Goldman pointed to the airline industry as an example of what the medical profession should strive for because of the emphasis put on reporting errors when they happen so that everyone can learn from them.
"When planes crash, the disaster is spectacular, you might have 300 lives lost, plus their families and all the other ramifications," he said. "With medical mistakes it's often one patient at a time."
According to a 2004 study, anywhere from 9,000 to 23,000 Canadians die each year due to medical mistakes, figures Goldman said could be lower if physicians were more willing to talk about what went wrong. He said there are a number of barriers preventing more open and transparent discussions, from people being afraid of hurting a colleague's reputation to concern of retribution if they speak out.
"We often feel shame for our colleagues," he said. "The vicarious shame doctors, nurses or other healthcare providers for a colleague who has made a serious mistake, is often almost as bad as the shame felt by the person who made the mistake."
It's not just people who can be at the heart of problems, Goldman said technology can also play a part when software fails.
When human mistakes do occur, Goldman said rarely one person is to blame. More often it's a chain of events that occur and fail safes break down, sometimes because people are afraid to speak out.
"I'm not saying incompetence doesn't exist, it does exist," he said. "I wouldn't call it rampant, I would say we all make mistakes every day - in some cases those mistakes have consequences and in other cases they don't."
Tickets for the Saturday's 2 p.m. event are $20 for Citizen subscribers, students, physicians and Northern Health employees and $25 for the general public. They're available at the Citizen office at 150 Brunswick St.