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Doctors Increasingly Willing to Hide Medical Errors

A new survey revealed that doctors are increasingly willing to cover up harmful medical errors. As San Diego medical malpractice attorneys, the findings are extremely concerning.

The 2016 Ethics Report from Medscape polled more than 7,500 physicians from over 25 specialties. One of the questions stated: Is it ever acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing a clinical mistake that harms a patient?

In total, seven percent of physicians responded that it's acceptable to hide a medical error that harms a patient, while another 14 percent said it would depend on the situation. "There is no pleading the Fifth Amendment in the hospital—only in the court room. What doctor wants to self-incriminate?" one urologist responded.

While 78 percent of doctors would disclose a harmful medical mistake, the results are still concerning. By comparison, when surveyed six years ago, 95 percent of physicians said it is never acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing a mistake that would potentially harm a patient.

The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics requires doctors to "disclose medical errors if they have occurred in the patient's care, in keeping with ethics guidance." In addition, hospitals are increasingly adopting policies under which doctors are encouraged to disclose and apologize for medical mistakes.

Arthur Caplan, PhD, a bioethicist at NYU Langone Medical Center, characterized the increase as "surprising and disturbing." He further stated that doctors' willingness to conceal medical errors "runs against safety issues and concerns. This is a finding that makes me nervous. The shift is in the wrong direction."

If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.