Primum non nocere.

The basic dictum, the bedrock, the philosophical foundation on which clinical medicine is built is this piece of advice to all doctors - "First, do no harm."

In its simplistic way, it would mean that the treatment must not make the patient worse than the disease would make him.

There are various ways this can happen -

 - the medication was not appropriate, 

- the dose was incorrect, 

- the surgery was not the best option for the patient (knee replacement in a 90 years old bedridden obese patient), 

- the Chemotherapy was not indicated (it would not get rid of the tumour but would make the quality of life worse because of the side effects of the drug), 

- wrong limb / wrong organ surgery - Patient admitted for Cataract surgery in the Right eye and Left eye got operated.

This dictum is the guiding force behind a huge international exercise in trying to ensure patient safety and welfare. 

What can I do as a patient? - You can learn to understand your disease a little better, you can take control of your medication a little better - especially when admitted to the Hospital. Mention very clearly the medicines and food items that you are allergic to - this is passed on to all Departments in the Hospital so that wrong medication is not prescribed. Take as much control as possible over your care. For instance I had a patient who was to be operated upon the Right ear - from the time she was shifted from the ward to the time she reached the Operation Theatre she informed everyone down the chain (the transport staff, the Pre-Operative room staff, the Operating room staff as well as the Anaesthetist) - that it was her right ear that was to be operated! - this is taking control in your own way.

To reassure you, Hospitals take this issue very very seriously and enough safeguards are built in at multiple levels to prevent such mishaps from happening.