Doctors often reluctant to report medical mistakes

Federal requirements regarding the reporting of medical errors are apparently still open to interpretation. According to certain doctors, the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 was passed to encourage physicians to report errors while at the same time be shielded from public disclosure of these errors. Yet certain states have issued court rulings that may disclose more information than these same physicians are comfortable with.

One case concerned a woman that died purportedly due to a surgical error by physicians. The woman’s family requested certain medical records regarding the woman’s care, but the physician objected by claiming these records were protected by the federal act. Both the trial court and court of appeals disagreed with the physician’s interpretation and allowed the medical records to be produced.

In another incident, a patient admitted to a hospital for lower leg paralysis subsequently died due to septic shock. The treating hospital refused to release medical records prepared after the patient’s death, but a court ordered that these records had to be produced.

Obviously, the concern is that doctors are attempting to withhold documents that may reveal medical malpractice by claiming protection under the federal legislation. Certain doctors apparently feel that there will be less reporting of errors if doctors are punished for admitting to errors they committed.

Yet medical malpractice attorneys representing victims in these claims likely would feel that such an interpretation would defeat the purpose of the act in reducing the amount of surgical and hospital errors that are currently occurring. Without more public disclosure of errors that are currently occurring, those same errors are likely to reoccur.

Source: American Medical News, “Doctors appeal rulings that diminish error reporting protections,” by Alicia Gallegos, Nov. 19, 2012