Patient safety terminology

�Patient safety�,� hot� and ‘hype’, �adverse event�, �incident�, �system failure�.

Those who study the literature about patient safety frequently come across new words and concepts which are used in a special, uncommon way.
Suddenly the word �Patient safety� appeared and it is called �hot� or described as a �hype�. The meaning of �hot� is actual and in. Hype can be defined as modern mania. It is quite remarkable to describe a large long existing social problem – medical errors which cause the death and disability of app. thousands of people a year- as �hot� or a �hype�.
Suppose you become disabled or a member of your family dies due to a medical error.
Surely you will be sad. Will you say: this has been caused by a �hot� problem?
Who actually decided that patient safety applies only to �adverse events�- in normal language medical errors- in the future? Why do physicians want to boycott the use of the word errors?
Why does patient safety not apply to the present victims, who were confronted with a lack of patient safety in the past?
Why do the responsible professionals decide the definitions of their dysfunctional behaviour?
Which value do physicians attach to the suffering of their victims?
International research shows that 10% of hospitalisations results in medical errors, of which 1% results in death or disability: 1 in 1000 hospitalisations! This means medical errors are a structural problem. One can wonder whether it is justified to use the term �incident�.
�Incident� is defined as disturbing event and �incidental� as less frequent and secondary. The word �incident� minimises the seriousness of the event in which e.g. a fellow human being died or became disabled.
The use of the word �system failure� is also doubtful. This word is used to place the responsibility at the system and denies the individual responsibility. A system is a set of procedures and individual activities. It is an abstract concept. Are physicians not human?
Individual activities, also by physicians are part of systems. Physicians have their own individual and personal responsibility.
The word �system failure� does not occur in regular language. Apparently it is the product of creative brains of the so-called patient safety experts.
�Patient safety experts� prefer to ask only the question: why and wish not to address individual responsibility. In case of a medical error it is however important to address all issues:
What happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen?
Who was involved ( passive)? Who was involved (active)?
What is the consequence (damage)? Can the damage be repaired, how, by whom and when?

November 23, 2006 the theme of the conference of the Dutch platform patient safety was:
Repair and tell! (adopted from the Harvard Consensus Report: Responding to Adverse Events, March 2006) We support this completely.
Please use regular and understandable language. Physicians and hospitals: go ahead and provide genuine remedial medical care to the present victims of medical errors!
Medical errors are not �hot� or a ‘hype’. They are a long standing urgent problem.
Government, physicians, nurses and hospitals: address the problem of medical errors adequately and respectfully now!

Literature:
John Banja Medical Errors and Medical Narcissm, USA 2005
Nancy Berlinger After Harm: Medical error and the ethics of forgiveness, USA 2005
Van Dale Groot Woordenboek der Nederlandse Taal, NL (Dictionary Dutch Language).