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Medical Culture May Encourage Doctors to Not Admit Their Mistakes

Although medical science has allowed us to live longer and healthier lives, it is not without risks. Nearly all types of medical procedures and treatments pose risks to patients. While some risks are unavoidable, many can be effectively managed in order to ensure positive outcomes. Unfortunately, when medical professionals commit errors, deviate from the recognized standard of care, or otherwise fail in their duty of taking reasonable measures to reduce risks, patients can suffer preventable harm.

Medical mistakes on the part of physicians, nurses, and other health care providers injure and kill hundreds of thousands of patients each year in the United States. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that medical negligence ranks just behind heart disease and cancer as the third leading cause of death nationwide. With medical errors as common as they are, one would think that medical providers would be honest and upfront when mistakes occur. According to a recent study, however, most health care professionals would actually work to conceal their role in a medical mistake.

The study, published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal, surveyed over 300 PCP doctors over how they would react to hypothetical situations involving medical mistakes. The first situation involved delayed diagnosis of cancer, and the second concerned a delay in responding to a patient’s symptoms due to poor care coordination. Here are a few key findings from the study:

  • Over 70% of physicians responded that they would provide either no apology or a limited apology, little to no explanation of the error, and few details, if not no details, about what caused it.
  • When noting why physicians would err on the side of not admitting mistakes, researchers found that elements such as personal responsibility and how serious the event was.

While the study may have only surveyed 300 physicians using hypothetical scenarios, a reluctance to admit mistakes is more common that most people would think. A large factor behind this is the threat of malpractice lawsuits, and a medical culture that generally frowns on admitting mistakes due to potential liability. Often, medical professionals will minimize their role in a mistake, relegate blame to an inherent risk, or generally avoid accountability by blaming something or someone other than themselves.

When health care providers shift blame and shirk responsibility for their mistakes, they further harm injured patients who wish to assert their right to hold a negligent medical professional accountable and recover compensation for their damages. Whether medical professionals avoid blame due to medical culture or their own personal egos is nearly irrelevant when it comes to the health, safety, and future of patients who have suffered preventable harm.

At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, our legal team has been fighting on behalf of the seriously injured since 1978, including many of who suffered preventable harm as a result ofmedical malpractice. Our team understands the issues involved in these cases, and while we know that at-fault parties may be inclined to avoid liability, we focus on the thorough investigatory work, preparation, and expert coordination to ensure that they are held fully accountable when the facts make it clear they failed to uphold their legal duty.

If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to what you believe was a medical mistake, our award-winning Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys are available to help you learn more about your rights, whether you might have a case, and what we can do to fight on your behalf. To get started with a free consultation, contact us.

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