Disclosing Medical Error

It’s in the nature of medicine that all practitioners will make mistakes – some which have no adverse effects and others which cost patient lives. As a soon-to-be intern, I surmise I’ll make a lot of logistical mistakes in the beginning, but in the event of a medical error, the following topics need to be addressed.

First, give the patient an explicit statement that a medical error has occurred. Next, provide a basic description of what the error was, how this will impact their care, why it happened, what the treatment team will do to reverse it, and how they will prevent it in the future. Finally, end with a genuine apology.

In the end, being up front about all aspects of a patient’s care is an implicit part of the doctor-patient relationship, and it’s our duty to keep them updated.

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