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Consequences of Medical Malpractice

According to a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, about 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die in hospitals every year as a result of medical mistakes.

While most doctors are open to revealing medical errors to patients and believe it would help prevent mistakes from occurring, others are afraid patients would use the information against them in lawsuits.

“If you want to be frank and honest with a patient, you don’t know if they’ll appreciate that or use it against you,” said Dr. Mark Piasio, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

In Pennsylvania, patients can legally use a doctor’s admission about a medical error in a medical malpractice lawsuit, added Piasio. Furthermore, admitting mistakes can also put their malpractice coverage at risk.

The Studies

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine surveyed about 2,650 doctors in the U.S. and Canada to evaluate their attitudes about disclosing medical errors.

In the first study, the doctors were given four medical malpractice scenarios in which errors would or wouldn’t be apparent to the patient. The doctors were asked under what terms they would disclose the mistake and how much information they provide the patient.

According to the study, 80 percent or more of the doctors agreed that the medical mistake in the scenario was serious and the doctor was “extremely” responsible for the error. Sixty-five percent of the doctors said they would definitely disclose the mistake to the patient. The ones that were given the most obvious errors were more likely to say they would disclose.

The second study, which used the same survey, found that both U.S. and Canadian doctors have common attitudes about disclosing medical errors despite their varying malpractice environments, indicating that the risk of lawsuits is not linked to the support for disclosure.

Have you suffered from a medical error? Please contact us today to speak with a qualified medical malpractice attorney about your legal rights and options. 

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