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Doctors more likely to tell patients about obvious errors

Wall Street Journal (Blog), October 7, 2008

In a survey, physicians were presented with two scenarios: In one, a child receives an overdose of insulin and is admitted to the intensive care unit, and in the other, a doctor overlooks a lab test and the child is hospitalized for a serious infection. The insulin overdose would be more apparent to the child’s family, and that may partly explain why 75% of pediatricians said they would definitely report the insulin overdose to the child's family, but only 33% said they’d definitely report the overlooked lab test. The range of responses about whether and how to report such errors to patients is reflective of a medical culture that is only slowly moving toward transparency, and of an abiding fear of lawsuits among doctors, say the study's authors.