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Doctors are unwilling to disclose medical errors, survey shows

As patients, we trust our doctors to provide the best care possible and keep us fully informed. Sometimes errors occur due to medical negligence. If an error does occur, the standard in the medical profession requires doctors to fully disclose the error to the patient and offer an apology and explanation for what happened. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In fact, a recent survey by Georgia State University many doctors seem reluctant to own up to medical errors that occur during treatment. While many doctors agreed to reveal partial information, most were not willing to fully disclose information regarding the error.

The survey gave 300 primary care physicians two hypothetical cases, each involving a medical error relating to a cancer diagnosis. The first case had to do with a delay in diagnosis of breast cancer while the second case had to do with a delayed response to symptoms caused by a failure to coordinate care properly. After evaluating both cases, most of the doctors said that they would offer little to no explanation about the cause in either case. The doctors also seemed unwilling to apologize to the patients.

The desire to disclose error tended to be based on perceived responsibility, perceived value of communication with the patient, and perceived seriousness of what happened.

This survey indicates a serious problem amongst medical professionals. Any medical errors resulting from poor patient care is bad enough. The idea that a physician would not fully admit to the error and offer an explanation to the patient is particularly troubling. However, New York patients that have been the victims of medical negligence can file medical malpractice suit against the physicians responsible for their care. While nothing can undo the trauma of a medical error, the financial support from a successful lawsuit can help victims and their families move forward.

Source: Georgia State University, "Many Primary Care Doctors Are Reluctant To Talk About Medical Errors, Georgia State Study Finds," Nov. 28, 2016

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Michael J. Gaffney, Attorney at Law
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