Report: Doctors have a duty to report other doctors’ medical mistakes

According to data recently reported by NBC News, up to 440,000 people die each year as a result of medical mistakes in the United States alone. Sadly, this means that medical mistakes and hospital errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. - trailing only cancer and heart disease.

While many efforts have been made to eliminate these deadly medical errors, they have proven hard to eradicate as many of those employed in the health care industry are hesitant to confess their mistakes, thus making it more difficult to address the root of the problems head on. Interestingly, this dilemma is further compounded by the fact that many co-workers in the health care industry are reluctant to even report the mistakes of their colleagues.

However, a recent report published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that open communication between colleagues and patients regarding possible medical mistakes may be one of the best ways to ensure patient safety.

When coming to their conclusions, the authors of the report made note of the fact that doctors are expected to put the needs of their patients ahead of their own - meaning that concerns of repercussions for medical errors should not deter doctors from being truthful with patients. After all, patients who suffer injuries due to medical mistakes will often need a great deal of assistance getting better, and it doesn't help them if doctors, and their colleagues, fail to give them accurate information regarding the errors.

Additionally, given that the authors of the recent report opined that the "transparent disclosure of [medical] errors is a shared professional responsibility," they also proposed various guidelines for as to how doctors should disclose and address the medical mistakes of their colleagues.

Importantly, the report indicates a doctor who suspects another colleague has made a mistake should first get the facts surrounding the incident and speak with the alleged offender about what actually happened. This conversation should also include a discussion as to the best way to convey the information to the patient.

Obviously, some doctors may be defensive if accused of mistakes, but ignoring a possible issue will not assist patients in getting better. Tackling medical mistakes directly not only aids the injured patient, but also helps ensure that similar problems will not occur in the future.

Seek assistance if needed

Suffering an injuring due to a hospital mistake can be a challenging experience for any patient. However, victims of medical errors need to know that remedies may exist if they have been injured at the hands of a negligent doctor or other hospital staff.

Accordingly, it is often best to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney if you believe a medical mistake may be the cause of an injury. A skilled attorney can review the circumstances of your injury and help determine if medical negligence it to blame.