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How many doctors disclose surgical errors to their patients?

National guidelines suggest that doctors and hospitals should fully disclose any surgical error to both the patient and their family members as soon as possible after it occurs. A recent study published in JAMA Surgery found that doctors fell short in disclosing these indiscretions though.

To better understand how well doctors respond to these recommendations, researchers polled at least 60 different surgeons working across 12 different specialties at three different veteran's hospitals in the United States. The majority of the doctors polled reported having followed at least five of the eight recommended procedures in disclosing an adverse surgical outcomes.

Most doctors polled admitted to advising patients and their families that they committed a surgical error within a 24-hour window of it having happened. Those same physicians also said they showed remorse for the error and the impact it has or will have on the patient's health. A large majority also outlined proactive measures they intended to take in treating the after-effects of the error as well.

Researchers found that 55 percent of all surgeons engaged in a discussion as to whether the error could have been adverted.

As for reasons doctors hesitated in disclosing medical error, more common than not, doctors said that the error was personally disappointing for them. In other cases, they were scared about the professional and/or legal implications of having made the error.

This is why many hospitals have begun implementing no fault notification practices in their facilities during the past two decades. Hospitals have begun acknowledging that errors do occur in high pressure situations where doctors are asked to think quickly on their feet. Nowadays, researchers found that hospitals tend to only punish doctors in cases in which they show a repetitive track record of negligence.

Improper diagnoses, botched surgical procedures or mistakes made in prescribing or administering drugs claim 250,000 lives on an annual basis in the United States. If you have a loved one who has experienced a significant decline in his or her health or that has died as a result of a doctor's negligence, then you may benefit from discussing your case with a Los Lunas medical malpractice attorney.

Source: CBS News, "Would a surgeon tell you if something went wrong during your operation?," Mary Brophy Marcus, accessed June 07, 2017

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