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Doctors compound medical errors by not admitting mistakes

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No one likes admitting they made a mistake, no matter what it is about. According to a recent study, doctors are just like everyone else in this regard. Except the problem is, when a doctor makes a mistake people can die. Mistakes in medical treatment by doctors are only serious when there is a failure to acknowledge that a mistake was made. This deprives the medical community of an opportunity to correct treatment decisions in the future and learn from the mistake that was made.

The University of Iowa interviewed 338 physicians at thee unidentified teaching hospitals. Seventeen (17) percent of the physicians admitted they failed to report a minor error in medical treatment, while four (4) percent failed to report a mistake that resulted in disability or death. The study then asked the physicians about a hypothetical situation in which a patient with allergies to a specific antibiotic was given the antibiotic by a physician.

Less than half of the doctors, forty-three (43) percent, would have reported the mistake if there were no adverse effect on the patients health. If the patient developed a rash, seventy-three (73) percent would report the mistake. Finally, if the patient had breathing difficulties or had a heart attack, ninety-two (92) percent would report the mistake.

Probably the most interesting and troubling statistic was that only thirty-six (36) percent of doctors surveyed admitted to making a mistake. For anyone who has ever been treated in the hospital or read a newspaper, this figure cannot be accurate. That is not to say that all doctors commit mistakes on a daily basis, but only to point out that doctors are human and they are just as likely to make a mistake as anyone else. There is nothing inherent in being a doctor that would prevent a person from making a mistake.

The attitude by doctors claiming to never make a mistake is troubling. Failing to admit a mistake does not allow the person to learn from the mistake and to correct future decisions based upon what he or she learned. When a doctor has your life in his or her hands, it would be good to know they were not repeating the same medical errors repeatedly. The medical community needs to hold doctors to a higher standard and require mandatory reporting or all errors. This is necessary because doctors can kill people simply by writing one word wrong. Increasing the reporting of errors can help all doctors treat patients correctly and decrease the opportunity for potentially fatal mistakes to be made.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.