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The history of medicine includes many errors. Some persisted for decades and caused great harm. Several are highlighted in this article, including the mythical thymic diseases: thymic asthma and status thymicolymphaticus. Some medical mistakes, such as the diet-heart hypothesis of Ancel Keys, continue to cause harm. To avoid future errors and their associated harm, I suggest a cultural shift encouraging professional humility and greater questioning of medical dogma. Medical education focused on teaching students this history may help with this cultural shift.

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Reprinted from The Permanente Journal, Vol. 21, Jeffrey B. Ritterman, To err is human: Can American medicine learn from past mistakes?, Article no. 16-181, copyright 2017, with permission from The Permanente Press. Reproduction of this material is confined to the purpose for which permission is hereby given.