Survey Shows Doctors Don't Always Disclose Errors
A survey of more than 2,600 surgeons and medical specialist, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reveals wide variations in doctor's willingness to disclose errors and present details to their patients.
When the error was obvious, like an improperly written prescription that led to an overdose, 81 percent of doctors said they would definitely disclose the error to a patient. But when presented with an error less apparent, only 50 percent thought it was worth mentioning. One example was a blood chemistry reading that had been overlooked. If it had been noticed, a serious complication would have been prevented.
According to a subsequent article in The New York Times, surgeons were more likely than other medical specialists to believe that an error would result in a lawsuit, but they were also more likely to report that they would definitely disclose an error.
At the same time, surgeons said that they would disclose less information than medical specialists, and they were less inclined to use the word ''error.'' Over all, 56 percent of doctors would mention the problem, but only 42 percent would disclose that the problem had been caused by an error.