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Doctors hesitant to share information about medical mistakes

People rely on their physicians to use sound judgment when it comes to managing serious health concerns. Unfortunately, in many cases, people are unable to discover whether a particular doctor has made mistakes when treating others. Indeed, it is often times difficult to find out any information at all about a doctor’s past performance. A recent study indicates, however, that doctors are well aware that their colleagues make medical errors and, in most cases, they choose not to share this information with prospective patients.

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine conducted a survey of doctors in the U.S. The results of the survey, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicated that over 50 percent of those surveyed had, at some point in their careers, identified a mistake made by a colleague. The survey did not track what steps these doctors took to correct the errors.

Over the past decade, multiple studies have indicated that doctors believe they have an ethical obligation to disclose their own mistakes to their patients. No similar consensus has emerged, however, when it comes to disclosing mistakes made by other physicians. In fact, many doctors argue that they have no obligation at all to tell patients that another practitioner has made an error.

It is not difficult to identify why many doctors would be hesitant to tell a patient that someone else had made an error. Many doctors rely on referrals from colleagues to help build their practices. If they were to develop a reputation for second guessing the opinions of other doctors, it could hurt their businesses.

At first glance, this issue may appear to have limited practical effect. The reality, however, is that the failure to talk to patients about the mistakes of other doctors seriously impacts patient care. According to the University of Washington study, the problem is that the reluctance to speak to other doctors about their mistakes can hinder the learning process, which in turn can lead to the incidence of even more errors. Although this issue may present serious ethical concerns, doctors should work together to come to a consensus on how best to approach these sorts of situations.

If you have suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of a doctor, consider speaking to a medical malpractice attorney. A medical malpractice lawyer can provide information on your legal options and help you determine which steps to take next.