Doctors Encouraged to Shirk Responsibility for Errors
A new study in the international journal of healthcare improvement revealed some troubling findings with regard to physicians and their willingness to disclose errors to patients. The study used two hypothetical scenarios, a delayed diagnosis of breast cancer and a delayed response to a patient’s symptoms due to a breakdown in the coordination of the patient’s care, to test primary care physicians’ responses. Most (more than 70 percent) of the physicians surveyed said they would provide “only a limited or no apology, limited or no explanation, and limited or no information about the cause.”
Why is this the most common response to a preventable medical error? The study found that the factor that most influences doctors to hide or disclose medical errors should be clear to anyone who has spent much time in the profession: The culture of medicine frowns on admitting mistakes, usually on the pretense of fear of malpractice lawsuits.
This is a huge problem when looking at the fact that medical errors cause 250,000 deaths per year in the United States alone, making it the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer, according to research published last year by Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins surgeon and outspoken patient safety advocate, and research fellow Michael Daniel.