As shocking as it can be to hear, there is no doubt that even the best-trained doctors make medical mistakes. In fact, medical mistakes are so common that they are now a leading cause of death in the United States, with only cancer and heart disease killing more Americans.
Despite this fact, doctors and the hospitals for which they don’t want to talk about them. Indeed, there are allegations that hospitals cover up acts of medical malpractice, and that doctors aren’t eager to talk about mistakes made by themselves or their colleagues.
Disclosing Errors to Patients
Doctors who commit acts of malpractice or medical errors have an ethical duty to reveal those errors to patients. But what about the errors made by other doctors? According to an article in ProPublica, while there is consensus that medical professionals should come clean when they knowingly make an error, there has been less discussion about what’s to be done should a colleague make an error.
There are a multitude of reasons why a doctor may be hesitant to report an error made by another medical professional. A New England Journal of Medicine report listed the following as potential reasons why doctors may stay mum about others’ errors:
- Doctors depend on other doctors for business and patient referrals – reporting another doctor’s medical error could have a devastating effect on the original doctors likeability amongst their peers, thereby affecting business success;
- Reporting medical errors can be time consuming, especially if the facts of the case are unknown or unclear;
- Cultural or seniority issues may be a deterrent; and
- Doctors may fear becoming entangled in medical malpractice claims themselves.
Hospitals Hide Errors, Too
It’s not just doctors who may be hesitant about disclosing medical errors, either their own or others’; hospitals have hidden errors in the past, too. To be sure, an article published in NY Daily News states that hospital records at city-run hospitals faked records in order to cover up medical errors. The article also reports that the cover ups were participated in by nearly everyone employed, including doctors, nurses, and hospital staff.
And yet another article, this one published by STAT, reports that “Medical culture encourages doctors to avoid admitting mistakes.” The report reads that while it is often fear of a medical malpractice suit that doctors claim is the reason for not reporting an error, “what’s really at risk are doctors’ egos and the preservation of a system that lets physicians avoid accountability…”
Your Duty as a Patient
As a patient in the United States, whether in Connecticut or elsewhere, the chances of being a victim of medical malpractice are very real. And while doctors are certainly tasked with a high duty of care, you also have a duty as a patient to do your homework, research and investigate a hospital and a doctor before seeking care, and ask plenty of questions. If you need serious treatment or a major procedure performed, look up the doctor and the hospital first – have there been complaints filed in the past? Is there a record of malpractice?
Being engaged as a patient can also help to prevent errors, particularly as a lack of communication is one of the biggest predictors of medical mistakes.
Finally, follow up. If something doesn’t feel right or you believe that an error has occurred, inquire about it. If necessary, do not hesitate to contact a medical malpractice attorney who can assess your case, and guide you in bringing forth a suit if appropriate.
Our Legal Team Is Here for You
At the offices of the Apex Law Firm, LLC, we believe that all patients should be treated with a high level of care. When the duty owed to a patient is breached and harm results, the physician responsible or hospital where the malpractice occurred should be held liable.
For a free consultation with our legal team where we will review the facts of your case and provide you with sound legal advice, please contact our team at (860) 900-0900, or by email using the intake form on our website, today. Our offices are in Hartford County, but we are also able to travel to your location when needed.