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What Doctors Say and Won’t Say After Serious Medical Error

waiting room.jpgWhen a patient is denied or delayed care for a dangerous medical condition, the results can be catastrophic. According to a new survey, if this happens to you or a loved one, chances are you will not get a full explanation – or even an apology.

Doctors often make serious mistakes because of a communication breakdown between healthcare providers. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School set out to determine what happens following such errors.

The survey asked primary care doctors what they would do in two hypothetical situations:

  • A doctor fills in for another and misses the proper diagnosis of breast cancer despite information that the patient has a lump
  • A colon cancer patient experiences fatigue and diarrhea and reports them several times, but neither the attending primary care physician or the oncologist respond to the patient

More than Half of Doctors Won’t Apologize for Medical Error

In both of these medical error scenarios, more than half of the physicians said they would they say nothing, not even to apologize. In the case of the missed breast cancer diagnosis, 53 percent of the doctors would not express regret. Only 22 percent would take full responsibility, while the remainder would blame the medical system without taking personal responsibility.

Even more doctors – 61 percent – said they would not apologize or express regret regarding the colon cancer patient who experienced a breakdown in care.

Going further, 54 percent of the doctors in the breast cancer misdiagnosis situation would not volunteer details of any kind to the patient and/or the patient’s family. And just over half also responded they would not say anything at all about possible causes for the misdiagnosis.

The results were a little better in the case of the hypothetical colon cancer patient. But still only 42 percent of the doctors would come totally clean about causes for the delayed care error. A little over a third of the doctors would only reveal partial information about possible reasons.

Doctors and other healthcare givers do make mistakes. After all, they are only human. But it too often is human nature to hide serious medical errors and why they occur.

If you had a family member die or you were seriously injured from what you suspect is a mistake in medical care, contact an attorney who handles medical malpractice lawsuits, who will advocate on your behalf to hold to account all those responsible for your loss.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.