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Report suggests doctors do not report mistakes of other doctors

There are a variety of reasons that a doctor in Pennsylvania may not report another doctor's error to a patient or administrative staff. These reasons may include being worried about a hostile reaction from the physician who made the error, fear of reprisal or an inability to gather all the information regarding a patient's treatment. Regardless, not reporting such medical mistakes may be common practice and might be a factor that increases the number of injuries caused by surgical errors.

According to some estimates, one of the leading causes of death in the United States is medical mistakes. One report suggests that doctors often see errors made by others but do not report the misstep. When these mistakes are not reported, physicians are unable to learn from or correct them.

The report, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, recommends that physicians should avoid such behavior. According to the lead author of the study, a survey of doctors discovered that half of those who participated stated that they had seen another physician make a mistake in the previous year. Instead of ignoring those errors, which may be a doctor's first instinct, the study advises physicians to look into the error and speak with the individual who made the mistake. The report also suggests that healthcare institutions should also establish policies that promote those conversations.

If the advice given by the report is accepted widely, institutional and cultural changes in the medical community may lead reduction in injuries caused by medical errors. However, such injuries still occur. In those cases, a medical malpractice attorney might be able to help injured individuals pursue compensation from the liable parties.

Source: Philly.com, "Why doctors stay quiet about mistakes their colleagues make," Marshall Allen, Nov. 11, 2013

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