Fritz Allhoff, “Medical Error and Moral Luck”, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 29.3 (2019): 187-203. Reprinted (in slightly modified form) in Fritz Allhoff and Sandra Borden (eds.), Ethics and Error in Medicine (New York: Routledge, 2020), pp. 19-33.
Abstract: Medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, but there has been little work done on the associated conceptual and normative questions. What is medical error? Is all medical error bad? The first section of this paper surveys the dominant conception of medical error—promulgated by the Institute of Medicine—and tries to understand whether error necessarily eventuates in adverse events. The second section challenges an asymmetry in the way that we think about error: for example, the received view would allow that undertesting could comprise medical error, whereas overtesting cannot. The third section considers the concept of moral luck, and how it bears on our ascriptions of medical error.