It's okay to say sorry

Associate Professor Chong Siow Ann.
PHOTO: It's okay to say sorry

SINGAPORE - Associate Professor Chong Siow Ann's commentary last Saturday ("When doctors make mistakes") was a breath of fresh air.

I admire his courage in candidly sharing an incident in which he made a mistake that led to the hospitalisation of his patient. His readiness to bear responsibility and apologise for his error reflects his humility - a virtue that is sadly lacking in Singapore society today.

There are important lessons and insights to be gleaned from Prof Chong's commentary.

As a society, we must learn to acknowledge that errors do occur from time to time despite the best systems and measures being in place.

But more importantly, when a mistake is made, it is imperative that we be transparent, upfront and sincere in accepting responsibility and apologising for it. Nothing surpasses the power of an apology in mending relationships, healing wounds and putting things right.

Being an avid Forum letter writer and reader for many years, I am dismayed by the circuitous approach employed in some official replies to readers' letters, when clearly an unreserved apology would have sufficed.

An apology, when offered sincerely and with a view to taking concrete steps to remedy the situation and prevent it from recurring, is far more effective than launching into a lengthy defence that serves only to confound readers.

Humility, respect for others and taking responsibility for one's actions are the hallmarks of a good public servant.

Let's not shy away from offering an unreserved apology when mistakes are made, so we may learn from them and strive to improve.

Kenneth Cheng Jing Wen


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