To err is human, to forgive divine” is an idiom from Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism, published in 1711. This statement suggests that humans should forgive, because error is part of their nature; an idealistic view limited in accuracy to a historical context in which medical errors were rarely identified or exposed. In the present climate of health care in the United States, patient safety has taken center stage, with vast media attention and resulting public expectations for quality and comprehensive care. One of the most influential documents to launch this issue into the mainstream was published in November 1999—the Institute of Medicine report, appropriately titled To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. It revealed to the public the now-infamous statistic that “44,000 to 98,000” individuals die each year owing to preventable medical error alone.
Kessler CS, Tolia V. Patient Safety in Emergency Medicine. JAMA. 2009;301(10):1070-1076. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.267