Why are Surgical Mistakes Kept from Patients and Families?
Several weeks ago, we discussed the possibility that hospitals have a ‘culture of silence’ when patients are harmed by medical mistakes. Recent research suggests many doctors still hide medical errors, but that the number is gradually increasing.
An article published by CBS News claims many doctors still remain silent on mistakes. According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, 45 percent of surgeons fail to disclose when mistakes were preventable to either patients or family members.
The Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research used an online survey of 60 surgeons, all of whom work at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Unsurprisingly, surgeons who had made life-threatening errors were less likely to admit mistakes had been made. Doctors who reported major errors also had higher levels of anxiety about the health outcomes of patients.
What types of surgical errors are most common? The JAMA Surgery report lists the usual suspects, such as leaving objects (surgical sponges) behind, accidentally puncturing organs or cutting nerves. One of the surgeons interviewed by CBS News claims he was present for a surgery where a medical student dropped his eyeglasses into the patient! Keep in mind, that could be a significant risk for developing an infection.
Why Doctors and Hospitals Should Not Hide Medical Errors
Doctors should always keep a healthy line of communication open with patients and family members. For our blog several weeks ago on the culture of silence, we discussed how a surgeon’s failure to disclose a surgical sponge being left behind caused his patient significant pain and illness.
Had the surgeon or hospital mentioned the mistake, he could have had the sponge removed. Patients have a right to know that the people they are entrusting their lives with are going to be honest when procedures go wrong. When important information is omitted, doctors and other health care professionals are not abiding by the Hippocratic Oath to not harm patients.
The Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro Law Group will hold hospitals accountable when patients are harmed by preventable mistakes.