Reflections at Arlington Cemetery

Standing over a puddle of water, we reflected on Rosemary Gibson’s words and on the stories of patients hurt by medical error. We were reminded of the fact that the endless array of tombstones from the total number of soldiers buried at Arlington from all US wars, together, approximates the sum of lives lost to errors of the part of the medical community each year. The green space remaining for future grave sites is a symbol for a paradisiacal reality where wars are no longer fought and lives no longer lost.

Would it not be equally idyllic to live in a world without medical errors? Preventible errors can, by definition, be eliminated completely. The medical community needs to rise up with our patients to use the tools that have been proven to make this a reality albeit on a smaller scale. Someday soon, we will see our own reflections and the faces of people around us, and recognize the faces of people likely spared thanks to our actions; we may think how crazy it was that we used to live in a world when patients would die unnecessarily from errors.

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