When should a physician admit he or she has made a mistake? Always, according to researchers at Loma Linda University Medical School in California.
The Loma Linda researchers studied patients' attitudes regarding errors and found that 98% wanted even minor errors acknowledged. Turns out they were less likely to consider litigation if errors, minor or serious, were disclosed.
"Generally, it's best to be relatively straightforward," advises Steven B. Hardin, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the school. "First, make sure the error really occurred. Sometimes when something bad has happened physicians may assume they did it, but it might be the medication that did."
A physician may wish to consult with an attorney before talking to a patient, but Hardin says "merely telling a patient about an error and apologizing does not mean the physician is admitting to negligence." However, he says, physicians should reassure their patients that they will do everything they can to help.