Many doctors who say they would admit to a medical error never actually do, according to researchers at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine.
In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the researchers found that among a sample of 538 physicians, residents and medical students in Midwestern and Eastern hospitals, 97% said they would admit, hypothetically, to a minor medical error, and 93% would admit to a major one. In reality, only 41% of those respondents actually disclosed the minor errors they made, however. Only 5% admitted to a major error. Nineteen percent of the respondents — roughly 100 — confessed to purposely hiding a minor error, and 4% admitted to covering up a major one. Authors say the survey illustrates a gap between physicians’ willingness to divulge errors, and a medical practice environment which frequently creates incentives for dishonesty in error reporting. They note that the older and more educated a physician was, the more willing he or she was to admit a mistake. Also, previous exposure to medical malpractice litigation did not appear to make a physician more willing to hide medical errors.
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