Survey: many doctors hide medical errors to avoid liability

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Feb 23, 2012 in Doctor Errors

We trust our doctors and surgeons to be honest with us, and let us know if something did not go as planned during surgery or another treatment. This way, we have the opportunity to seek corrective treatment or pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit if the medical mistake was serious enough.

However, a recent nationwide survey of approximately 1,800 physicians revealed that 17 percent did not completely agree that they should "never tell a patient something that is not true." Additionally, 11 percent admitted to telling a patient "something that was not true" during the past year.

What's even more bothersome is that the reason many of these doctors believed in telling "white lies" was to avoid liability in medical malpractice lawsuits, the survey suggested. This is troubling for patients who have been victims of medical errors , but may not know it.

In fact, 34 percent of physicians surveyed failed to completely agree that patients should be informed of "all significant medical errors." Overall, 20 percent of physicians surveyed said that they had failed to disclose information about medical mistakes at some point during the past year.

The survey also found that physicians in certain areas of medicine were more likely to disclose medical errors than others. It concluded that general surgeons and pediatricians felt the most strongly that all serious medical mistakes should be reported to patients, while cardiologists and psychiatrists felt the least strongly.

On the other hand, the survey found that pediatricians and psychiatrists admitted more often to telling an "untruth" to a patient, while general surgeons and cardiologists were the least likely to admit to lying to a patient within the past year.

Source: LA Times, "Many doctors hide the truth about medical errors, study finds," Karen Kaplan, Feb. 8, 2012

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