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Does disclosure of medical errors lead to more lawsuits?

August 23rd, 2010

By jeremy.engdahl-johnson

One idea for improving the medical professional liability environment involes disclosing medical errors. This was explored in the paper, “Retooling Medical Professional Liability.” Here is an excerpt:

Often, all an injured patient and family may really want is to hear an explanation and perhaps apology from the doctor and to receive a reasonable monetary award—one that will see to his or her immediate medical and other needs with regard to recovery from the event. In an effort to facilitate this type of exchange, as many as 35 states and the District of Columbia have passed what are called I’m Sorry laws allowing a physician to discuss openly an adverse outcome with a patient and express empathy.

A new study looks at this dynamic at the health system level. Here are details from a recent article in American Medical News:

One health system that has embraced the practice for nine years has concluded that those fears are unfounded. Disclosing medical errors and offering timely compensation to patients or family members do not increase medical liability lawsuits, according to a new study on the University of Michigan Health System’s disclosure-with-offer program published in the Aug. 17 Annals of Internal Medicine.

Under the program, the health system conducts an internal investigation of all medical error reports, notifies patients and offers compensation when employees are found at fault.

The health system has had fewer lawsuits, lower liability costs and faster resolution of medical-error cases since the policy was implemented in 2001. Although researchers could not definitively link those trends to disclosure, they were able to conclude that instituting the program did not lead to more lawsuits.

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  1. Kat J
    September 20th, 2010 at 17:47 | #1

    Disclosing medical problems will not increase the law suits, just decrease the lawyer’s compensation. In CA you can only get $250K for a doctor’s mistake and the lawyers take up to 40% of that! So where is my compensation for a doctor who missed my tumor? It won’t change my life, it will just make my lawyer richer. And if he can get this settled, he has less work to do! Gee thanks, I suffer and everyone else gets compensation! Where’s the justice in that?

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