A new report, Talking With Patients About Other Clinicians' Errors, in the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the frequency that doctors observe mistakes other practitioners make and their failure to disclose these errors. There are a variety of reasons that a doctor might not report a physician error, but the result of failing to do so is often bad for patients.
In addition to the harm to the individual, who is likely to not receive the treatment they need, not reporting other's errors keeps doctors from learning from their mistakes and hospitals from being able to enact policies that prevent them. A recent study suggests that medical mistakes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and even though a results of a survey of doctors shows that more than half of participants saw a colleague make an error in the previous year, many physicians do nothing.
In an effort to move doctors away from ignoring their peers' errors, the report from the NEJM urges physicians to become involved. The article recommends that doctors put a patient's needs first and to look into any mistakes they see being made. Doctors are urged to collect the facts related to an error and to speak with the individual responsible. Hospitals are also reminded that they need to do their part to encourage these behaviors.
Whatever the cause of poor patient care, it can lead to the worsening of a current condition or the development of new ones. Individuals who have been harmed as a result of poor care or negligence may be owed compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other expenses by a hospital, doctor or medical facility depending on their situation.
Source: Pacific Standard, "Why Doctors Stay Silent About Mistakes Their Colleagues Make", Marshall Allen, November 25, 2013