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How honest are doctors when they make mistakes?

Arizona hospital patients expect doctors to be accurate and highly skilled in performing medical procedures and treatments. It might surprise some patients to know that doctors do not always tell them the whole truth, particularly when things go wrong during surgery. A JAMA Surgery survey published in 2016 showed that while most surgeons said they admit errors to their patients, only a little more than half said they apologized or discussed whether or not the mistake could have been prevented.

National guidelines for doctors and hospitals recommend full disclosure when medical errors are made, but the survey indicated that most surgeons usually only admit part of the truth to patients. The majority surveyed said they disclose errors within 24 hours and explain why they happened, express regret and concern for the patient's welfare and take steps to treat additional problems that occur as a result of the error.

Talking about mistakes is difficult for surgeons, according to a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. However, the professor admits that disclosure is becoming the norm. In 2000, Johns Hopkins implemented a rule that allows health care workers to report errors without punishment.

Some health care facilities do punish workers who make mistakes. The Johns Hopkins professor says that punishment does not help patients, and it can be detrimental to health care workers. As an example, he mentions the case of a nurse at Seattle Children's Hospital who committed suicide after being fired for accidentally giving a fatal overdose of medication to an infant.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a study from May 2016. Whether a health care worker or hospital admits to a mistake or not, a surgical error could be a case of medical malpractice. A lawyer could help a malpractice victim file a claim for damages.

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Law Offices of Raymond J. Slomski, P.C.

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