Doctors may not report the errors of others

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

According to a new report, many doctors suggest they often see an error committed by another physician but largely do not report it, even though some estimates place medical errors near the top of the list of causes of death in New York and around the country. In some cases the doctors do not even inform patients of the medical errors committed by other doctors.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently released a report claiming the problem may be very common in the medical field. The author of the study says that most doctors believe that they should tell patients about errors they have made, but, when the subject turns to informing patients of another physician’s mistake, the subject becomes less clear. The reasons doctors may not disclose these issues range from the risk of losing referrals by other physicians to not being fully informed regarding the alleged error. The report also suggests that social aspects, such as seniority or cultural differences, may affect how doctors handle the mistakes of others.

The NEJM report says that doctors should try to explore the errors made by colleagues with the individuals responsible because it benefits the patient and teaches physicians to avoid errors in the future. It also said that hospitals should encourage the conversations.

Medical errors may cause death or injury to people and often result in excess hardships and financial loss for both the victims and their families. Those who believe that a medical error may have caused injury or death might be able to seek compensation from the doctor who committed the error my filing a medical malpractice claim in civil court. In some cases, the hospital may also be liable for damages related to the incident.

Source: Pacific Standard, “Why Doctors Stay Silent About Mistakes Their Colleagues Make”, Marshall Allen, November 25, 2013

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