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Medical researcher encourages doctors to confront mistakes

Having discussions with patients may be one way for doctors to address medical errors in Massachusetts. A researcher and professor from the University of Washington is attempting to bring such errors to the forefront in the medical community. The researcher is the lead author of "Talking with Patients about Other Clinicians' Errors," which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is meant to assist doctors in understanding how to communicate with patients and colleagues about medical errors.

The researcher created a video for University of Washington medical students that instructs them in communications with patients and colleagues about medical and surgical errors. By teaching professionals how to have these conversations, the researcher hopes to reduce the number or mistakes that impact patients.

There are three main principles that the researcher included in the scholarly piece. The first is that a conversation needs to occur between colleagues when there has been a medical error. Second, patients need to receive a full explanation about the error. Institutions should support doctors as they proceed to have these conversations with patients. Lastly, the researcher states that counselors should also be made available to help facilitate these conversations.

The researcher is seeking to publicize this ethical dilemma and encourage doctors to be more open in discussing mistakes with patients. Despite years of training and practice, medical professionals are still human and they do make mistakes. Patients who are injured when they should be receiving treatment may incur additional and unexpected expenses. At such times, the medical professionals who caused the injury may be held responsible for further treatment.

Source: KOMO , "UW researcher: Doctors need to discuss colleagues' medical mistakes", Denise Whitaker, October 31, 2013

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