Health Lawyers Recommend Guidelines for Medical Error Disclosure
An article published in the American Medical News (AMN) journal reported that legal experts from the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) suggest physicians follow specific guidelines when reporting medical error disclosure issues. Doctors and health teams are encouraged by AHLA to answer a series of questions to determine how and when to disclose this type of information to patients.
According to the article, reporting medical error disclosure issues and unfortunate mistakes to patients is a very difficult process for doctors because, if done improperly, it could result in a medical malpractice claim. AHLA also reported that there are often situations where doctors are unsure if the error is necessary to report to a patient. The guidelines designed by the AHLA provide questions for medical staff to consider include the following:
• What forms of empathy and apology are acceptable according to state apology laws?
• Has planned communication with the patient been reviewed by managers or legal counsel beforehand?
• What effect will the disclosure of medical error have on the patient and others involved?
The article stated that, depending on the severity of a medical error, doctors may be required to file a report for state regulatory agencies in the event a malpractice suit is filed. In Massachusetts, seven hospitals have already begun the initiative with the Disclosure, Apology and Offer program, reported AMN. The goal of the honest disclosure approach is to create greater transparency with the issue of medical error in the hopes that it will help resolve disputes more quickly and prevent malpractice claims.
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