Arizona readers may be shocked to learn that seven percent of doctors believe it's okay to hide a medical error that harms a patient, according to a new study. Another 14 percent say it depends, meaning they would only disclose an error under certain circumstances.
In the study, which was conducted by WebMD's sister site Medscape, 78 percent of doctors say it is never permissible to cover up a medical mistake. That's down from 91 percent in 2014 and nearly 95 percent in 2010. The increase in doctors' willingness to hide mishaps comes at a time when more hospitals are encouraging physicians to own up to medical errors. In recent years, many hospitals have begun to voluntarily report mistakes to patients and preemptively offer compensation to cut down on medical malpractice lawsuits. Several states have even passed "disclose, apologize and offer" legislation.
Some of the doctors who say it depends when asked if they would disclose an error indicate that the amount of harm done to a patient could influence their decision. Others say they are reluctant to self-incriminate. However, the Code of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association clearly states that doctors must disclose any medical errors that occurred in the patient's care.
Doctor errors are one of the leading causes of patient harm in the United States, causing thousands of injuries and deaths each year. In some cases, it may be possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible doctor and hospital. Patients could learn more about their legal rights by consulting with an attorney.
Source: Web MD, "More Doctors Willing to Hide Mistakes, Survey Says," Robert Lowes, Dec. 2, 2016