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Perm J. 2017;21. doi: 10.7812/TPP/16-181.

To Err is Human: Can American Medicine Learn from Past Mistakes?

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1
Retired Chief of Cardiology of the Kaiser Richmond Medical Center; he is the Clinical Coordinator and Associate Professor in the Joint MSPAS/MPH Program at Touro University in Vallejo, CA. jeffritterman@gmail.com.

Abstract

The history of medicine includes many errors. Some persisted for decades and caused great harm. Several are highlighted in this article, including the mythical thymic diseases: thymic asthma and status thymicolymphaticus. Some medical mistakes, such as the diet-heart hypothesis of Ancel Keys, continue to cause harm. To avoid future errors and their associated harm, I suggest a cultural shift encouraging professional humility and greater questioning of medical dogma. Medical education focused on teaching students this history may help with this cultural shift.

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