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Doctors reluctant to highlight others' errors

While Massachusetts doctors may see the need to disclose their own medical errors to patients, the question of what to do when they discover an error made by another medical practitioner is less clear. The situation of medical errors being detected by a second doctor is routine. A recent survey reports that over half of all doctors have spotted a colleagues error in a one-year period.

A discussion among 15 experts in the field found numerous reasons why doctors were reluctant to bring forward another's medical errors. First, doctors depend on each other for business. If a doctor develops a reputation as a tattletale, other doctors may be hesitant to refer patients to him or her.

Second, doctors may not know the whole story of a patient's history and do not want to take the time to unravel it. Third, pointing out a medical error to a patient could lead to a malpractice suit, and the second doctor may opt to avoid sparking that activity. This overall reluctance to bring forward medical errors discourages the practice of other doctors learning from their mistakes. With a system in place to communicate about medical errors, not only would doctors have the chance to continue learning, but it would also help patients develop more trust in the medical care that they are receiving.

Medical and surgical errors may have a detrimental impact to a patient's recovery, health and life following a medical procedure. A lawyer who is knowledgeable in the medical malpractice field may be able to review the patient's case, pinpoint where errors were made and secure compensation for the patient from the person or institution responsible for the errors.

Source: Pacific Standard, "Why Doctors Stay Silent About Mistakes Their Colleagues Make", Marshal Allen, November 25, 2013

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