Reflecting on my time here, there is nothing I would rather do than thank Harvard for all that it has done, and how better to thank an academic institution than to list all that it has taught me. So Harvard, a sincere thank you for teaching me the following:
Before embarking on an arguably justifiable rampage of the quality of America’s modern healthcare malpractice system, let’s stop to consider what compelled these surgeons to avoid admitting these mistakes. From the doctor’s perspective, there are several compelling reasons to not admit preventable errors. These include today’s negative stigma associated with making mistakes in medicine and a lack of meticulously accurate quality inspections in medicine, which more easily allows doctors to get away with their mistakes if they so choose. It’s difficult to imagine why doctors wouldn’t want to keep their mistakes secret given the negative consequences they face if a mistake proves fatal, including losing a patient’s trust, millions of dollars in a malpractice case, and even a medical license. In order to persuade doctors to admit their mistakes, we need to create an environment with more compelling reasons to own up to their errors rather than keep them hidden.
What does concern me, however, is whether this sudden urgency to talk about mental illness will last. This is not the first time Harvard was questioned on its mental health capabilities, and their prior solution of hiring psychiatrists is concerningly similar to what they hope to do now to address the issue. Though the current student-led efforts to increase awareness are at a much larger scale than those of the past, more needs to be done to ensure mental illness stays at the forefront of the campus consciousness. Harvard is not the only place that needs to reconsider its efforts on how mental health is viewed; this is something that should be addressed at a national scale.
Why do we forget such a dangerously persistent killer? Or perhaps a better question would be, is our ignorance by choice? These questions are difficult to answer because they force us to question our moral standing. There’s no denying that given its startling statistics, lung cancer should be recognized first and foremost as an extremely deadly medical disease. But instead of objectively seeing lung cancer for what it is, we form prejudices against the patients of lung cancer and blame them for their circumstances. Thus, we do not sympathize with them as much as we do with victims of the more “attractive” cancers. This in turn affects how much we are willing to help raise awareness to find a cure.