Achieving Perfection in Medicine
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
It may be misery not to sing at all,
And to go silent through the brimming day;
It may be misery never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.
To sing the perfect song,
And by a half-tone lost the key,
There the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of Life's Tragedy.
To have come near to the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lies aside its vanity,
And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.
This, this indeed is to be accursed,
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by what we have,
But by what kept us from that perfect thing.
Achieving Perfection in Medicine...
But is that possible and is that expected of physicians? Is anything less than perfection, even a mistake, an error, represent intolerable behavior and result for a physician? Are we held to a higher standard because we can hold life and death in our own hands? Is the physician's excuse a valid and rational one that making errors provides a means for the physician to learn. And where is the line drawn between a good and a harm?
University of California School of Medicine Commencement 2005 Senior Address by Peter de Blank about making mistakes in medical school and in medicine.
Should physicians take the view of the poet Dunbar and “count our joys” not by what our imperfect medical results have accomplished but only when we have attained the “miracle” our patients may desire? ..Maurice.