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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

The Institute of Medicine report on medical errors—could it do harm?

Brennan TA. N Engl J Med. 2002;342(15):1123-1125.

In this article, Brennan describes how the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report To Err is Human may, in fact, be harmful. The author offers an important perspective, as he was an investigator in two of the studies used to draw conclusions in the report. He expresses concerns about the extrapolation of these data and suggests that the figures from the IOM are inflated. He argues that these data can also be used to infer that medical care in hospitals has, in fact, become safer, despite the media’s interpretation of this report. He also notes the discordance between the demand for systematic approaches to injury prevention and the unwillingness of patients or politicians to pay for the expense of such interventions. He expresses concerns regarding the demand for public reporting of medical errors that has resulted from this report and the difficulty of pursuing such a system in the current medical legal environment.