Monday, 22 November 2010


Mistakes happen all the time. Thousands occur every month, every week, every day...Not all mistakes, however, have the same consequences. In several cases, the damage caused can easily be corrected via a simple procedure. For example, if a name is written incorrectly, it does not take more than a few seconds to rewrite it correctly. There are, on the other hand, many mistakes that create a great deal of damage or harm. Such errors are rarely, if ever, easy to deal with.

If a mistake is defined as an act that should not have taken place, countless acts could come to mind. The cashier who gave back the wrong amount of change to a client, the lawyer who did not provide good advice, the accountant that did not check the accuracy of the amounts shown on certain reports, the surgeon who made an error that killed a patient, the person who murdered another human being following an argument...

I think that every mistake has a two-fold impact. More specifically, a mistake is expected to affect the individual who made it and the person/s that suffered as a consequence of the error. Needless to say, the greater the mistake, the more worrying the effects.

One thing that perplexes and even disturbs me is the way that most societies react to people who make certain mistakes. Although it is frequently said that to err is human and even though new studies keep shedding more light about the fallibility of human beings, many societies react to several errors in a totally merciless way. Granted, when we read about people who broke into the homes of others to steal things or when we read about some doctor who made a fatal error, it is quite understandable to feel a certain degree of anger and fear. Such news tend to make people wonder: what if something like that had happened to me? Or to one of my loved ones?

Although I can understand the fear and anger that affects people who have suffered as a result of another person's mistake, I surely do not support the belief that the wrong-doer's life should be destroyed as a consequence of the error. As long as human beings are not changed in a biochemical way, people will continue making countless mistakes that are only made possible because of the way they are.

Any person who suffers as a result of a mistake should be helped. Yet, I believe that society should also help the individual who made the mistake. Whether the help given consists of psychotherapy or some other form of assistance, this should definitely be the preferred option rather than inflicting pain on another human being that requires help to avoid erring again.

Eric Cropp's story is a clear reminder of why things should change when it comes to mistakes. According to an article that appeared on USA Today, "Born in February 2004, Emily was diagnosed with a curable form of cancer when she was 18 months old. She underwent surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy to eradicate the tumor growing from the base of her spine. The treatment worked, and Emily was expected to go home disease-free just after her second birthday. Her parents planned a Disney World celebration trip with Emily and her older brother and sister. Instead, Emily awoke crying on Feb. 28, grabbing her head in pain and vomiting. She died three days later. An Ohio pharmacy board investigation showed that pharmacy technician Katherine Dudash had made a tragic error. According to a notarized statement Dudash wrote for the board, she prepared Emily's chemotherapy bag with a 23.4% saline solution, 26 times the 0.9% normally used. Pharmacist Eric Cropp didn't catch the mistake. The board revoked his license last year over the incident and a string of later errors. In August, an Ohio grand jury indicted Cropp on charges of reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter 'in the death of Emily Jerry'".

Apart from having spent 6 months in prison, Mr Cropp was also stripped of his warrant to work as a pharmacist. Is this a healthy way to deal with mistakes? What good came out of Mr Cropp's imprisonment and the fact that - to date - he is still unemployed?

I will conclude with an anonymous comment that was left following an Internet post regarding Mr Cropp's case: "I am a retail pharmacist in New Jersey and have made my share of mistakes always to realize them later and follow-up immediately on them. This is almost always due to over-burden. So it just saddens me that an over-worked pharmacist made such a grave mistake unintentionally and is now paying so dearly for it that he has lost a means of livelihood. The law should understand that pharmacists are over-worked and instead of punishing one pharmacist for it, should ensure that all pharmacies have adequate help to sustain the pharmacy. I hope for the best for pharmacist throughout the States and for the profession of pharmacy."

What if you had committed a similar mistake? How would you like to be treated after making such an error?