Survey results recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicate that 98 percent of doctors endorsed the need to disclose serious medical errors to their patients. The doctors talked a good game … but most had less than full disclosure in mind!
Only 42 percent would actually use the word “error,” while 56 percent would mention the adverse event but not the error. Only 33 percent would explicitly apologize for their mistake. Only when the mistake was obvious, like a sponge left in a patient’s body, did most doctors feel the need to admit error and apologize to the patient or family. The failure to admit error is surprising in light of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organization’s requirements for open and full disclosure of medical mistakes.
The authors of the report concluded that limits on malpractice suits would unlikely have any effect on what doctors admit to their patients.