Strengthening the Medical Error “Meme Pool”
The exact number of patients in the USA who die from preventable medical errors each year is highly debated. Despite uncertainty in the underlying science, two very large estimates have spread rapidly through both the academic and popular media. We utilize Richard Dawkins’ concept of the “meme” to explore why these imprecise estimates remain so compelling, and examine what potential harms can occur from their dissemination. We conclude by suggesting that instead of simply providing more precise estimates, physicians should encourage nuance in public medical error discussions, and strive to provide narrative context about the reality of the complex biological and social systems in which we practice medicine.
KEY WORDSmedical error patient safety quality improvement media
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.
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