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Medical errors and full disclosure

Ohio residents may benefit from learning more about trends concerning medical error disclosure as described by the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality. Historically, patients who suffered an injury from a medical error were never informed of the error or the cause of the complication. Many doctors avoid these conversations with patients out of fear of medical malpractice lawsuits. For some, the discomfort and shame involved in the disclosure process it too much to bear.

However, a survey conducted in 2006 showed that more health practitioners were beginning to disclose serious errors to patients and agreed that doing so was warranted. According to the survey, some of the aspects of disclosure that are most valued by patients includes how the effects of the error can be minimized, steps the doctor and facility can take to prevent any recurrences, an explanation of what caused the error and complete disclosure of any harmful errors that occurred.

Full disclosure can be described as satisfying each of the aforementioned concerns that are most important to many patients suffering a medical error. Even though physicians agree that there should be full disclosure, many are still selective with their phrasing when explaining medical errors to patients. The study showed that 56 percent of the physicians surveyed agreed to partial error disclosure, defined as mentioning the adverse event but omitting the error. Only 42 percent agreed to full disclosure, defined as providing an explicit statement that an error had occurred.

Patients who suffer an injury because of a medical error may be entitled to receive compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim. Legal counsel can investigate the incident and help assess which parties can be held accountable for the damages. Plaintiffs in these cases are often entitled to recover restitution to help account for corrective procedures, medical expenses and loss of income caused by the error.

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, "Error Disclosure", November 01, 2014

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