Thursday, May 24, 2007
Do doctors disclose mistakes?
Something that caught my eye this morning was a story about whether doctors report medical errors. It was a fascinating survey, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, of doctors regarding disclosure of mistakes. There were lots of different numbers, but allow me to summarize by saying that around 20 percent acknowledged that they had not disclosed a minor error and around 5 percent acknowledged not disclosing a major error. Keep in mind, this was just a survey of doctors, not a study of actual medical errors.
The article also prefaced the results by saying that physicians inherently think it's important to disclose medical errors, yet many do not do so when it comes to their own mistakes. As we sat and talked about this in the newsroom, it seemed everyone had an opinion. Many non-physicians think doctors are all part of an "exclusive club" where they take care of one another and block disclosure of mistakes. Others pointed out that we live in a very litigious society, where doctors are running scared and fearful of lawsuits. Many thought doctors would never disclose an error and believe they often withhold information from patients.
I was a little surprised at all the conjecture. Still, it taps into some important attitudes toward doctors and perhaps the trust of the medical establishment in general. What do you think? If your doctor made a mistake, do you think he or she would tell you?
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