When We Do Harm

“An essential read for anyone involved or interested in the care of patients.”

“Executed with a personal touch that makes it highly readable.”
……Kirkus starred review

“Danielle Ofri masterfully diagnoses the reasons for our pervasive problem of medical errors.”
……—Professor Eric Topol,  author of Deep Medicine


Patients enter the medical system with faith that they will receive the best care possible, so when things go wrong, it’s a profound and painful breach. Medical science has made enormous strides in decreasing mortality and suffering, but there’s no doubt that treatment can also cause harm, a significant portion of which is preventable.

Published in the midst of the first Covid surge, When We Do Harm, by acclaimed physician Dr. Danielle Ofri, places the issues of medical error and patient safety front and center in our national healthcare conversation. Written with Ofri’s signature combination of current research, gripping narrative, professional experience, and even—yes—humor.  When We Do Harm explores the diagnostic, systemic, and cognitive causes of medical error. Ofri researches what patients can do to protect themselves, how to ensure hospitals and doctors are not committing preventable errors, what happens when the checklist is not enough to prevent harm, how racial and economic inequities worsen care, and what steps medical professionals and institutions can take to improve patient safety.

She advocates for strategic use of concrete safety interventions, but focuses on the full-scale cultural and cognitive shifts required to make a meaningful dent in medical error. Woven throughout the book are the powerfully human stories that Dr. Ofri is renowned for. The errors she dissects range from the hardly noticeable missteps to the harrowing medical cataclysms.

While our healthcare system is—and always will be—imperfect, Dr. Ofri argues that it is possible to minimize preventable harms, and that this should be the galvanizing issue of current medical discourse.

Check out the Japanese edition.

你會說中文嗎? Check out the Chinese edition.

а ты говоришь по русски? Check out the Russian edition.

(coming soon: Korean and Spanish editions)

Parli Italiano? Get your espresso and check out the Italian edition of “What Patients Say, What Doctors Feel:” Cosa dice el malato, cosa sente il medico.

Keep tabs on Danielle’s upcoming events


“What makes this book special is Ofri’s perceptive and compassionate nature; she sees her own patients as real people and is candid with readers about her concerns and vulnerabilities. . . .Thorough analysis of a challenging problem executed with a personal touch that makes it highly readable.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An essential read for anyone involved or interested in the care of patients.”

Booklist Reviews

“One of the leading physician-authors of our time, Danielle Ofri masterfully diagnoses the reasons for our pervasive problem of medical errors. Beyond a systematic dissection that every patient can understand, she provides solutions for how to get healthcare on track.”

Professor Eric Topol,  author of Deep Medicine

“Ofri’s contribution is not only to identify [medical errors], expose them, own them, and think hard about ways to reduce them. Her biggest contribution is to put medical errors into the larger context in order to tackle them in useful ways that always bear in mind “The Human Consequences,” as one chapter is titled.”

NY Journal of Books

“Not just for medical personnel, “When We Do Harm” is accessible for anyone who is or has ever been a patient. It’s neutral, thoughtful, insightful, it reads like a thriller that’s narrated, and that’s pretty wonderful.”

Bookworm Sez

“This intriguing and jaw-dropping seventeen chapter book, written in a reader-friendly and conversational style, will leave you stunned, angry, and in tears.”



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