Errors in Medicine: Nurturing Truthfulness
Journal of Clinical Ethics. 1997 Winter; 8(4): 336-340.
In "When a Physician Harms a Patient by a Medical Error," Finkelstein and colleagues maintain that patients have a right to the truth and that physicians have a corresponding obligation to be truthful. In their view, when an erroneous act or omission results in an adverse outcome for the patient, the physician should truthfully disclose the medical error, offer the patient a sincere apology, and explore the option of financial compensation. In the abstract, this seems reasonable -- and some might even argue uncontestable. Why then is it not common practice for physicians to routinely discuss their errors with their patients? In this article, I will critically examine some of the reasons given by physicians for non-disclosure or partial disclosure, and then consider what the medical profession should do to foster more respectful, open, and honest communication about errors with patients.
Attitudes; Case Studies; Communication; Compensation; Competence; Disclosure; Disease; Emotions; Ethics; Iatrogenic Disease; Interprofessional Relations; Legal Liability; Liability; Medical Errors; Medical Ethics; Medicine; Moral Obligations; Motivation; Negligence; Patient Care; Patients; Physicians; Professional Competence; Regulation; Risks and Benefits; Sociology; Sociology of Medicine; Trust; Truth Disclosure; Uncertainty; Whistleblowing;
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