NY Times Op-Ed Video: Physician, Say You're Sorry...

funkydrmonkey

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medking

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Especially when you're living in the US. People over here sue for everything and anything!!!
 
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CarrieBad

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I think that most people would not sue if a doctor admitted making a mistake, and in fact in many situations you are probably less likely to be taken to court if you admit culpability. Some people are definitely litigation happy, but I imagine they would sue you whether you actually made a mistake or not.
 

Depakote

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I'll take responsibility for my mistakes... but only if the patient takes responsibility for theirs.

"Sure I gave you penicillin when you were allergic, but you really should stop being so picky about the drugs you get. Co-responsibility here, people."
 

mbe36

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I did an extensive project on physician error and really liked this video. I appreciated their highlighting of the fact that a physician can go through their entire training without learning how to deal with a mistake. This is surely an issue I hope to address in my first year of medical school.

Medical error is a travesty- but I believe many situations could be resloved, or at least contained, if the issue were met head-on and a "bridge" were formed between the patient, physician, and their family.

Thanks for posting, OP.
 

cpants

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Actually, the research does show you are less likely to be sued if you admit your mistake and apologize to the patient. Additionally, many states are considering or have already implemented laws which make apologies inadmissible as evidence in court.

One of the most common reasons patients sue after a mistake is because they feel their injury was ignored or they feel it could happen again to another patient. This is why you should always apologize, and in every apology you should outline the steps you will take to make sure this never happens again. Making a mistake which will cause harm to a patient is a statistical certainty for every physician. Apologizing well could be healing for your patient and save you a lot of time and money.
 

pianola

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Thanks for posting, OP.

NP and thanks for your reply.

Additionally, many states are considering or have already implemented laws which make apologies inadmissible as evidence in court.

I would definitely love to know which states those are.

One of my biggest fears about going into medicine is the fear of causing a patient harm due to some mistake of my own. I know it's gonna happen at some point in my career (perhaps many times :() but I can't imagine it's easy living with the knowledge that I've unintentionally hurt someone. After all, "first, do no harm..."
 

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I think there are some patients and family members that view healthcare as a lottery in which any error is a winning ticket for great riches. I think they can be identified to some degree when you talk to them - they tend to be the same people who are able to work but choose not to. A lot of people who use emergency departments for free primary care, and despite being uninsured have expensive cars and clothing, fall into this category. You can tell by the questions that some people ask that they are fishing for mistakes that you or other doctors have made. No apology is going to protect you here and I can understand why a doctor would not want to bring errors, particularly those without clinical consequences, to their attention.

For most patients, if you establish good rapport before the error and apologize well, I think you will be better off than if you try to conceal facts.
 

Nanon

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For most patients, if you establish good rapport before the error and apologize well, I think you will be better off than if you try to conceal facts.

I had a unique situation where this attitude would have gone a loooong way toward helping in my recovery. I went in for a shaving of a bunion, and ended up with foot reconstruction. They told me after the surgery while I was still coming up out of anesthesia, and didn't tell the person who came to pick me up that my foot was actually broken in 2 places and pinned back together. I went to school 3 days later completely ignorant, slipped and fell, only to have the doctor later say, "Well, we told you this had happened." "WHEN?" "Right after surgery." "Why didn't you call to make sure I was OK and knew?" "Because I'd already told you. You can't go back to school this semester."

He blamed all of the complications on me. I came thisclose to suing him. If he'd just apologized and been less of a dick to me, things would have gone much, much better.

S.
 

nogolfinsnow

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I had a unique situation where this attitude would have gone a loooong way toward helping in my recovery. I went in for a shaving of a bunion, and ended up with foot reconstruction. They told me after the surgery while I was still coming up out of anesthesia, and didn't tell the person who came to pick me up that my foot was actually broken in 2 places and pinned back together. I went to school 3 days later completely ignorant, slipped and fell, only to have the doctor later say, "Well, we told you this had happened." "WHEN?" "Right after surgery." "Why didn't you call to make sure I was OK and knew?" "Because I'd already told you. You can't go back to school this semester."

He blamed all of the complications on me. I came thisclose to suing him. If he'd just apologized and been less of a dick to me, things would have gone much, much better.

S.

I was going to use the exact same word in my reply, but now I don't have to.

Just because you don't admit a mistake doesn't mean no one will know you made one. If, pretty much any time in life, you screw up and everyone knows it but you fail to own up to it, you look like a giant d-bag and people don't like you. You have to be adult enough to deal with your mistakes. If you make an honest mistake and explain it fully to your patients, many of them will appreciate your honesty and you can work together to fix the problem. Sure, there are some patients/lawyers out there who are going to try and sue you no matter what, but saying sorry could save your butt in certain cases.
 
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