A recent study published in the archives of Internal Medicine reveals some disturbing tendencies in the medical field. The survey was given to 2,600 surgeons and medical specialists. Its aim…to question doctors motivations and tendencies regarding the disclosure of any errors they may have made, or will make. 20% of those surveyed definitely would not disclose obvious errors (such as an improperly written prescription that led to a patient overdose) to the patient. Even more disgusting is the fact that 50% of the doctors surveyed claimed they WOULD NOT report a less obvious error (such as mis-reading a patient’s medical chart).
In the event that a doctor’s error caused a serious problem for a patient, an astounding 58% claimed they would not admit the problem was a result of their error. Most doctors claimed they would offer the patient an apology, although only 1/3 said that the apology would be heartfelt. The other 2/3 reported that they would issue an apology only in an effort to lower the number of malpractice suits filed, or decrease the amount they’d have to pay in a settlement.
Comforting, huh? Perhaps comments from the study’s author, Dr. Thomas H. Gallagher (also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington) will set patient’s mind at ease. He said, “It isn’t that doctors routinely make a conscious decision to conceal errors,” rather, “the doctor is thinking about what the patient really needs to know to understand what happened.” His attempts to gain a patient’s trust appear futile even after explaining, “Doctors worry about telling patients too much, scaring them unnecessarily.” That’s hogwash, they’re worried about covering their behinds. Patients should be informed of all concerns that may or may not effect them. After all, they’re adults….they can handle it.

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