Society of Hospital Medicine Statement on the Vaught Case
May 13, 2022
Representing the fastest growing specialty in modern healthcare, the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) is the leading medical society for hospitalists and their patients.
With the sentencing in the RaDonda Vaught case, the Society of Hospital Medicine stands in solidarity with healthcare team members and professional societies in opposition to medical errors being criminally prosecuted. This case affirms the need for healthcare institutions to recommit to the principles of just culture and to support all members of the care team.
The inpatient setting is where lives are saved daily, but it is also a complex, fast paced, and inherently high-risk environment. As delineated in the Institute of Medicine’s report, ‘To Err is Human’, it is incumbent upon healthcare institutions to build-in safeguards that protect patients and ensure delivery of high-quality care.
Unfortunately, systems can occasionally fail. When this occurs, institutions must support a culture of safety, which encourages the transparent reporting of medical errors and allows for continuous improvement. Medical errors are the result of systemic failure rather than a single individual in isolation. The criminalization of medical errors and prosecution of an individual for an error will not result in a safer healthcare system. Instead, it will discourage timely reporting of medical errors and have a chilling effect on the culture of safety and openness. This will lead to failure to identify and rectify systemic errors and will contribute to future, preventable medical tragedies. We believe a just culture is one in which all healthcare team members practice in an environment designed to prioritize safe and high-quality patient care and where they are supported in reporting errors.