Helping the Injured in Tennessee Since 1977

Medical error disclosure becoming more common

As Tennessee patients may know, when doctors make a mistake, an explanation is warranted if not necessarily forthcoming. Traditionally, doctors and hospitals have taken the tack of denying that an error occurred. A survey showed that more physicians were addressing medical errors upfront with their patients.

Various studies have shown that patients want to know if a doctor made a harmful medical mistake and what effect the error will have on them. Patients feel that they deserve to know why the error occurred and how the error will be addressed or corrected. Full disclosure includes the provision of such information as well as an apology from the medical staff who committed the error. Yet, many patients still receive only partial disclosures.

Many physicians and medical personnel likely provide only partial disclosures due to an uncertainty and lack of training in how to address the issues. There is usually also the fear of lawsuits. However, studies actually suggest that patients are less likely to sue if a full disclosure is provided. Some hospitals such as the University of Michigan now promote full disclosure and have since reported a drop in the number of lawsuits and litigation costs.

If an error results in harm to a patient, a health care provider has the obligation of telling the patient what happened and to make every effort to stop the progression of physical damage. Errors that result in misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment may cause irreparable harm to the patient's health. This may end up causing the patient to rack up more medical care costs.

An attorney representing a patient who has suffered as a result of a medical error might help determine if negligence was a factor. If so, the attorney may help the patient recover financial losses by filing a malpractice suit against the health care provider.


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