About 98% of physicians surveyed said serious medical errors should be disclosed to patients, but about 60% said they will be less likely to do so if they "think the patient would not understand what I was telling him or her," according to a study in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine. The study included anonymous responses from 2,637 U.S. and Canadian physicians between July 2003 and March 2004. Other factors the doctors said that might inhibit disclosure included "if I think the patient would not want to know about the error" (30%); "if the patient is unaware that the error happened" (21%); and "if I think I might get sued" (19%). According to a second article examining other responses from the same physicians, there exist wide variations in how physicians disclose medical errors. For example, 56% of respondents would mention the adverse event but not the error, and 19% would volunteer no information about the error's cause. At deadline, the latest issue wasn't available online.
Many factors shape decisions to tell patients of errors
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