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Culture of silence in medical industry endangers patient safety

Preventable medical mistakes and serious acts of medical negligence continue to be a serious problem for the U.S. healthcare industry. While it is troublesome that so many preventable medical errors occur at all, what is truly scary is how often these dangerous errors are not reported. Physician error and the culture of silence that plagues the medical industry is an important concern for our Maryland readers.

From doctor's errors to unexpected complications, sometimes mistakes happen, but what is so surprising is how many mistakes go unreported. In 2005, a report published by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that nearly 84 percent of the doctors who participated in the study admitted to having observed serious medical errors, including dangerous shortcuts and bad clinical judgment, among others.

While the mistakes themselves are bad enough, what makes matters worse is that more than 90 percent of the doctors who participated in the study said that they did not confront or report their colleagues after observing mistakes, even serious ones. While doctors may face a multitude of concerns from professional blowback to medical malpractice, failing to report mistakes only enhances the dangers for future patients.

If a patient is injured due to a doctor's errors and the hospital or physician attempt to cover up the event the physician may be both criminally and civilly liable. In a civil proceeding, the patient may be entitled to recover damages for the injuries. Damages in a medical malpractice case can vary dramatically. However, if a party can prove that a doctor intentionally remained silent after the fact, the damages could be large.

Source: Forbes, "Silence Kills: Can Technology Drive meaningful Cultural Change in Healthcare?," Robert J. Szczerba, Sept. 17, 2013

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