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Why is it so hard for doctors to admit they made a mistake?

Posted by Brendan Faulkner of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on May 31, 2013 in Doctor Errors

There are many people who are afraid of going to the doctor. Some are worried that they'll hear some bad news while others are fearful that their health will be put in jeopardy if a mistake is made. People across Connecticut put our wellbeing in the hands of a doctor at one point or another, and we expect that we will be treated with a standard level of care. But too often, a mistake is made and a person's health can be in danger.

It may not be a question of if a mistake will happen, but rather when that concerns many patients. We have read stories about how overworked hospital workers are and we know that the stress of certain emergency environments can cause chaos, and we know that mistakes are made because of these conditions. But what is difficult to understand is why it is so hard for a doctor to admit to a patient that he or she has made an error. 

Too often, a doctor learns that a medical mistake has been made but chooses not to disclose the error to the patient. Or they will try to cover up the mistake by blaming other people, including a patient. Many doctors do this because they do not want to get in trouble or admit that they made an error on the job. Others feel that if an error is undetected or does not negatively affect a patient, there is no need to inform them. But these lines of reasoning can be very dangerous. 

In many cases, disclosing an error can help to identify a systemic failure. This means that a mistake may be the result of a larger issue in a hospital, not necessarily a lapse in a doctor's care. But many doctors still feel as though admitting a mistake will make them look bad so they ignore it or try to pass it off as someone else's problem, which just exacerbates the situation. 

Addressing the fact that an error has been made is the first step in solving the problem. From there, patients can decide what they'd like to have happen. In some cases, they may choose to put the event behind them and move on without taking any further action. In other cases, however, it may be appropriate for a Waterbury personal injury lawyer to file a claim against a doctor or hospital to hold them accountable for negligence. 

Source: Bangor Daily News, "Medical errors tough to admit, but doctors should apologize to patients," Manoj Jain, May 28, 2013

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