An error is defined as a failure to follow the set plan of actions or an inappropriate use of the strategy in order to achieve a goal. Humans tend to be fallible and, as a result, they are prone to making mistakes whether as doctors, bankers or builders (Edwin 34). As much as medical practitioners remain to be fallible, it does not mean that errors in the medical field are acceptable in any way. However, many doctors do not report the cases of medical errors to the concerned patients due to a number of reasons that can lead to the negative consequences. This paper supports the disclosure of medical errors to the patients and their families.
Medical complications and death cases from the medical errors have become very severe over the years. A recent research in England concluded that about 25 % of the hospitalized patients will have an experience of a preventable medical error of some kind, and approximately 100,000 will die annually because of the medical mistake. This means that if it were a disease, it would be ranked position six of the worst causes of death. This is even more severe in other countries in the world. What makes the issue more unacceptable is the culture that doctors have failed to disclose the instances of these errors to patients. In some cases, some doctors will not be silent on errors, but goes further to blame these complications caused by errors on other factors, so as to clean themselves of any mistake and liability, an act that is a total deception (Makary).
Disclosing the information to patients is not a hard task. A doctor typically discloses, apologize and then explain (Leape). One has to make an acknowledgment that something has gone wrong, and then the explanation that something will be done to rectify and finally a doctor or a physician in charge physically apologize.
Dental and medical practitioners must at all time promptly inform patients of any single error that may have featured during the treatment or investigation. Failure to disclose or withholding information from patient’s equals to deception, something that is unethical and unacceptable in the medical field. Some doctors hide behind the argument that they don’t want to upset the clients, but it is not a valid reason. The issue of incompetence and disclosure of errors is clearly addressed in most code of ethics in nearly all medical associations. For example, the Ghana medical association states that patients have a right to receive relevant information about their medical information and its management (Edwin 39).
The cases of hiding information from patients are so severe that most of the time, they learn from these errors from very crude ways. Some learn through the inadvertent disclosure of the hospital workers. A good number learns about them through suspicion that causes them to contact lawyers that obtain the documented records for their clients (Gerlin).
There are various reasons why most of the doctors fail to disclose even the critical medical errors to patients. The threat of legal liability, fear of causing distress to patients, loss of privilege, reputation or even revocation of licenses are the prime reasons given in regards to this. Nevertheless, this is not anywhere close to a justification of violation of patients’ right to their health information (Edwin 34).
Failure to disclose these errors to patients is equivalent to not respecting their autonomy. The power of self-determination goes hand in hand with the principle of truth telling. The act of non-disclosure is tantamount to the ignorance, demeaning and insult of their autonomy. The act interferes with the imperative doctrine of informed consent, as without the information, the patient may not see or understand the need for an additional intervention or even a longer stay in hospitals that become necessary as a way of rectifying the undisclosed error (Leape).
By failing to make a disclosure of a medical error, doctors conduct themselves in the immoral way. They put their interest above the client to the detriment of the patient. This should be counted as a gross violation of patient-centered ethics. Patients become disadvantaged as the power to make a decision becomes impaired. They are forced to endure harm instead of benefits in hands of medical practitioners. It is worth noting that a failure to disclose a medical error does not reduce the chances of legal liability to a doctor but rather enhances it. It betrays the trust that the patient has to the physician, and the likelihood of litigation increases.
Disclosure of medical errors has to be carried out within the frameworks of ethical conduct. There are a number of principals that have to be observed when it comes to the disclosure. The first includes the respect for the client’s autonomy and nonmaleficence. The former is about self-determination while the latter is about ensuring that from the beginning, the practitioner avoids any act that could harm the client. The beneficence and justice are the other two principles. The justice principle entails the moral obligation of fairness, a principle that demands an equal distribution of risks and benefits among the groups in question. Beneficence principle, on the other hand, entails the prevention of any harms and promoting good to the patients (Hannawa).
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The culture of secrecy is already overtaken by time. Leading safety organizations are apparently advocating the disclosure of medical errors. Hospitals, on the other hand, are promoting honesty as the best policy. A doctor has to apologize to a patient in a good way. They should get used to the utilization of the word ‘sorry’ and have the courage to communicate to patients that they are the people responsible for the error (Graham).
The revealing of the information is beneficial not only to clients, but medical practitioners at large. Revealing of medical errors to patients eases the guilt of a doctor and at the same time diffuses the anger of a patient. This improves the patient-client relationship and will reduce not only the cases of legal suits, but also create an ample environment needed for a healthy medical care.
Since the human is prone to making mistakes and errors, there is a need to come up with more measures that facilitate the disclosure. Hospitals should give a reasonable compensation for the injuries that their doctors subject clients. This will automatically bring down the cases of lawsuits against the doctors. A good example is that the University of Michigan Health system adopted in 2001, when the institution started acknowledging medical mistakes and providing prompt settlements to the injured clients. This registered a lot of progress since that year and up to now, the number of malpractice claims has gone down by nearly two third.
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Veteran Affairs Medical Center handles errors in a different way as compared with other hospitals. The 400 bed hospital is an exemplary case that operates under a very tough policy of giving information to clients as soon as possible (Gerlin). The hospital does not just encourage its employees to disclose information to the employees. It goes further by following them even after they are discharged. In the points where there are cases of an error, the hospital employees go ahead to convince the victims to accept financial compensation, a request that is rarely declined. The two examples are a clear illustration that it is possible to disclose a medical error to patients. Both the medical practitioner and the respective hospitals juts need to have the will to do this.
In conclusion, one can note that medical errors are ranked as one of the highest causes of human death globally. Though, the errors of human can be prevented and if they were found, they can be disclosed to clients and therefore rectified. The disclosure by doctors to patients is rare due to fear of losing of privileges, reputation and threat of legal liability. The admission and disclosure of liabilities can be facilitated if the hospital open that door and the doctor put the interest of the patient first. In the hospitals, where that is practiced, there are minimal cases of lawsuit, as the patients easily give in to the financial compensation.
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