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New research examines surgeon disclosure after a surgical error

Surgical procedures can be intimidating and worrisome enough for Illinois patients and their families without having to consider the potential for medical malpractice. Research is ongoing to determine the cause of surgical errors and how they should be dealt with when they occur. However, one concern that is frequently overlooked is whether or not medical professionals are honest with patients and their families after a mistake has been made. It is required that information be given to patients, but this is often ignored.

A recent study in which more than 60 surgeons took part indicated that more than half of the recommendations for disclosure were not adhered to when there was a mistake during surgery and that mistake led to harm. The requirements include explaining to the patient and family what happened; disclosing it within 24 hours; indicating regret for it; showing concern for the well-being of the patient; and making sure that no more issues come from what happened. Fifty-five percent of those taking part in the survey admitted to giving an apology or discussing the preventability of the mistake. That leaves 45 percent who did not.

Another issue that was considered in the study was how surgeons are affected by these errors. The surgeons who were most negatively influenced by the mistake were the ones who committed serious errors and had difficulty talking about what happened. Surgeons who expressed greater negativity about disclosing mistakes indicated a higher level of anxiety after disclosure. Fear of punishment is often a reason medical professionals avoid disclosing mistakes. Punishment is found to be a dissuasive factor for doctors because they do not want to face penalties. Researchers suggest that punishment should be administered only if there are repeated instances of medical negligence.

Although hospitals are taking steps to tamp down the number of medical mistakes that occur and are trying to find a multitude of different methods to make certain that surgeons are vigilant about them, that does not eliminate the reality that a surgical error is a looming threat to anyone undergoing a procedure. If a doctor never apologizes or discloses what that an error occurred does not meant that there operation was error-free. When medical malpractice occurs, those who were affected need to protect themselves by contacting an attorney to consider a lawsuit in hopes of recovering compensation for their damages.

Source: CBS News, "Would a surgeon tell you if something went wrong during your operation?" Mary Brophy Marcus, July 20, 2016

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