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Could Transparency in the Medical Field Reduce the Prevalence of Medical Errors?

Medical ErrorsPreventable medical errors are now considered the third leading cause of death in America, just behind cancer and heart disease. Clearly, something must be done – but what? Some experts in the field, including medical researchers, say the answer is transparency. Are they right, or is there another way to reduce the prevalence of medical errors in the U.S.?

The way Things are now

Doctors and hospitals have been covering up their mistakes for years. In fact, physicians are often trained to do so. They are not supposed to admit wrongdoing, and they may even blame adverse outcomes on “unforeseeable circumstances.” The fear is that, by admitting they have made a mistake, doctors could spark a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician or facility. Many consider this flawed thinking. They believe that patients know when their doctor is hiding something, and that they may be less likely to file a lawsuit if the physician is honest about the situation – even if they have made a grave mistake.

What Researchers are Proposing

A paper, published in Medical Education, recently examined the psychological factors that play into medical errors. In it, the author discussed how individuals in a high-stakes industry, such as the medical industry, may be more likely to assume more blame than they deserve. Further, the author suggested that physicians are more likely to overestimate the long-term implications of their mistake. Add these two together, and you have a physician who is suffering from immense self-blame who is far more likely to cover up their error than to try and explain his role in it.

The author proposes that, by looking at other high-risk industries, doctors can become more realistic when it comes to their role in a medical error. Further, by being more transparent, they may improve the doctor-patient relationship, which may decrease their odds of an angry patient or patient family. In turn, they may be less likely to experience a medical malpractice suit. More importantly, doctors may be less likely to make the same mistake again if they fully understand their role in the adverse event.

Is Transparency the Solution?

Although transparency would be helpful for victims and their families, there is little evidence to suggest that it would reduce the risk of medical errors. However, one study did find that the risk of medical malpractice lawsuit did not increase when doctors were honest with their patients. So, ultimately, doctors have nothing to lose by being transparent. Further, if more physicians were transparent, more studies could be done to determine if and how transparency affects the risk of errors, and if it could potentially change the outcome for patients.

Contact Our San Jose Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured by a medical error, contact Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, LLP for assistance. Seasoned and knowledgeable, our San Jose medical malpractice lawyers will fight to ensure you get the most compensation possible. Schedule a free consultation by calling our offices at (408) 289-1417 today.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.