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Attempts made to reduce medical malpractice cases with honesty

When there is a medical mistake made in Illinois, and it harms a patient or even leads to a fatality, the patient and his or her family have the right to expect full disclosure and honesty from the medical professionals. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, as the fear of a medical malpractice legal filing and the accompanying consequences of the error often leads to an attempt to avoid responsibility. Increasingly, the goal between medical professionals and patients has tried to become completely candid with an apology for the error.

Changes are happening, and these have resulted in avoiding the attempts to deny the error and defend against a lawsuit -- "deny and defend" -- with a greater reliance on honesty. Recently, a federal agency specializing on researching the quality of health care has advocated a process for communicating with patients to boost transparency. For hospitals, this stems from research indicating that patients and their families would prefer to be told when there was a mistake. In addition, medical professionals have been found to experience anxiety if they are restricted in what they can and cannot say. Research has shown that there is a greater likelihood of a lawsuit being filed if there is the perception of a lack of disclosure.

Programs have been implemented in some states to establish a standardized set of rules for the communication with patients and family members when there has been a mistake made. Training is meant to prepare the medical professionals on how to handle this. Improving the way in which communication occurs is intended to make certain that the relationship is not adverse and the participants can work together to solve problems. These procedures have reduced the number of mistakes, as doctors have been able to be more open about what went wrong, discuss them and think about improvements.

Even with that, there are times when medical malpractice is so damaging to patients that openness, honesty and the attempts to rectify the situation are not sufficient. When a patient has been severely damaged or died due to medical malpractice, this will result in substantial personal and financial costs for the family. If there is a surgical error, even if there are attempts to apologize on the part of the medical staff, it is imperative for the family to keep its options open to consider a legal filing with help from an attorney.

Source: khn.org, "Doctors, Hospitals Prepare For Difficult Talks Surrounding Medical Mistakes," Zhai Yun Tan, Aug. 22, 2016

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