‘Second Victims’ of Medical Negligence: Why the Term Should be Done Away With

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Jun 15,2019

Image result for med malThe British Medical Journal recently published an editorial calling for the abandonment of the term ”second victims” to refer to healthcare providers who have caused patient harm as a result of medical errors.

The term “second victim” was coined by Albert Wu back in 2000 in an editorial that was also published in the British Medical Journal. He made an impassionate plea for people to consider the trauma suffered by doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers after a patient is harmed as a result of their carelessness or negligence. Wu attempted to bring attention to the need for emotional support for healthcare providers who find that a patient has been harmed as a result of an error that they made. Over the years, the term “second victims” has become very popular.

While no Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer would dispute the need for emotional support for medical staff who have caused an error or have been involved in causing one, it is time to do away with this term. The term “second victim” seems to equate the suffering of the health care provider like the doctor, nurse or technician whose negligence cased harm or injury to the patient, with the actual trauma suffered by the victim.

Ina recent editorial in the British Medical Journal, Melissa Clarkson calls for a rejection of the term because it perpetuates the harmful and erroneous belief that medical errors are the result of bad luck, and not negligence. The term promotes the myth that medical errors are largely not preventable, and that we should feel sorry for the health care provider involved when medical errors occur.  This kind of reasoning is extremely unfair to injured patients and their families.

No patient expects to be injured as a result of the negligence of the healthcare providers working on his care. When a medical error does occur – and millions of these occur every year, injuring thousands – parents and their families can be left severely traumatized. To equate their suffering and pain with the guilt of the medical professional involved in causing the error is to deny patients the accountability that they have a right to expect from their health care provider.

Besides, the more often hospitals  use the term “second victim” to refer to staff members who have caused an injury to patients  as the result of a error, the less inclined they may be to take serious corrective steps to prevent the injury in the future.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical negligence, call an Indianapolis medical negligence lawyers at Montross Miller and discuss how you can begin the process of filing a medical malpractice claim.