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September 12, 2005

Disclosing Harmful Medical Errors to Patients: A Time for Professional Action

Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(16):1819-1824. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.16.1819

Physicians find themselves in an increasingly untenable bind when deciding whether and how to disclose harmful medical errors to patients. Error disclosure is desired by patients and advocated by safety experts and ethicists and is now included in many hospital policies, state laws, and accreditation standards.1-13 Yet, as the malpractice crisis deepens, calls to fully disclose errors to patients can strike physicians as naive, simplistic, and unacceptably risky.14-16 As a result, many patients receive little information about errors in their care. Recently, only 30% of physicians who experienced an error in their own health care said that they were told about the error, a disclosure rate consistent with prior studies.17-23

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