It Shouldn’t Be A Whisper.

When a patient in a hospital has been the victim of medical malpractice, many people often know about it.  The one person who is usually not in on the secret is the patient who has been injured.  Sometimes the medical personnel, often a nurse or other non-physician, is so upset by the mistake and the cover up that they go to the patient or the patient’s family and quietly tell them about the malpractice or suggest that they see a lawyer.  It shouldn’t be this way.

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Common sense tells us that mistakes should be admitted and corrected.  Medical research has confirmed our common sense over and over again.  When mistakes are admitted, they can be corrected and people can learn from them.  When mistakes are hidden in a shroud of secrecy, or even worse behind a wall of lies and falsified medical records, justice is not done, no one learns from the mistake and the mistake is likely to happen again.

Of course, it is human nature not to want to admit that we made a mistake.  For doctors, many of whom are somewhat insecure in the first place, to admit a medical mistake is to threaten the very core of their competence.  It just can’t be done.  There are other reasons doctors and hospitals want to keep medical malpractice secret and many of them come down to our old friend: money.

A doctor or hospital who admits a mistake may face a claim arising out of that mistake.  They may find themselves involved in a lawsuit in which their conduct is a mater of public record.  They may have to pay money to resolve the claim.  They may be reported to the Arizona Medical Board or to some other regulatory agency.  Their malpractice insurance rates may go up.  The best course, as far as they are concerned, is just to deny, deny, deny.

From the time physicians first began to think about medical ethics, a cardinal principle has been to do no harm.  Hiding mistakes by either ignoring them, covering them up, or just plain lying about them harms patients.  It may or may not harm the patient who has been the victim of the malpractice.  It may be too late to fix the problem but it may not.  If the mistake is not acknowledged, the doctors and nurses treating the patient may go off on a wild goose chase, misled by the effects of the mistake.  Future patients are almost certain to be harmed by hidden mistakes because new procedures or training were not put in place to prevent the mistake from happening again.  Hidden mistakes also undermine the public’s trust and confidence in medicine and those who practice it.  If you can’t trust your doctor not to lie to you, whom can you trust?

Medical mistakes should not be the subject of a quiet whisper in the elevator, they should be shouted out, confronted and prevented.

Posted in Arizona Medical Board, Defensive Medicine, disclosure of medical mistakes, Doctors, Lawsuits, medical errors, medical ethics, Medical Malpractice, medical mistakes, Medical Negligence, Secrecy |