Managing Medical Error Disclosure

The incidence of medical errors has been on the increase (Mazor et al 2006). Medical errors are also called euphemistically as adverse events. A report titled “To Err is Human” had talked about the frequency of medical error about a decade ago (Levinson, 2009). In spite of the high incidence of serious medical errors, there had been no guidelines from professional bodies as to how to deal with medical errors until a few years ago (Bratton, 2007). Disclosing medical error to the patient has been high on the agenda of ethical practitioners in the medical profession contrary to what time and again insurance companies and their attorneys have advised against disclosure (Guadagnino, 2005). Medical error is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has estimated the related costs at $ 29 billion (Rajendran, 2001). Medical errors are not necessarily related to an individual’s negligence. It can be due to systemic deficiencies (Howe, 2000).

Medical errors are so rampant that they are now considered a public health issue endangering the safety of patients. The medical error had been recognized as early as in the mid 1950s. But there had been no change in medical practice until recent times aimed at avoiding them. For example, in the case of tonsillectomy debated for the past more than two decades as an unnecessary procedure, it was only after the public scandal involving the death of children during early 1970, that the medical profession woke up to the reality (Millenson, 2002). There are more than one million adverse events that end up in 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths in the U.S. (Basanta, 2003). However much the efforts are being taken to avoid medical errors, it has not been possible to totally eradicate them as they are now daily routine to be confronted with by the health industry as a whole at someplace or other. Hence, in order to put the patients and their relatives at ease, the policymakers have made it equally mandatory for the service providers to disclose such medical errors to the patients instead of hiding them as had been in the past.&nbsp.