Certified Legal Nurse Consultants Know All Too Well That Most Medical Errors Are Not Disclosed to Patients

As a legal nurse consultant for more than 33 years, I’ve consulted on countless medical malpractice cases with multi-million dollar verdicts. In the majority of those cases the injured plaintiff still didn’t get what he wanted most – an apology from the hospital and treating physician.

With medical malpractice at epidemic proportions (400,000 deaths/year), you’d think apologies are in order, but a study in the Journal of Patient Safety reveals that medical malpractice incidents rarely come with an apology.

Of the respondents in a patient harm survey:

  • 3% stated the medical facility voluntarily disclosed the medical harm.
  • 3% stated the medical facility only acknowledged the medical harm while under pressure.
  • 38% stated that the medical facilities denied responsibility for the medical harm altogether.

Unsurprisingly, reporting of medical harm by physicians is no better. Of the respondents:

  • 8% reported the treating physician voluntarily disclosed the harm.
  • 9% reported the treating physician acknowledged the harm only under pressure.
  • 46% stated the treating physician denied responsibility.

There is also research that communication and disclosure by providers strongly influence a patient’s decision whether or not to file a lawsuit. As I’ve previously addressed in this blog, full provider disclosure of harm and an associated apology actually reduce litigation.

All RNs learn in nursing school that a poor patient-provider relationship increases the likelihood of an injured patient filing a medical-malpractice lawsuit. Non-disclosure of harm and lack of apology are strong evidence of such a poor relationship. Give me one reason why an injured patient wouldn’t want to sue in the face of such callous behavior.

Preventable adverse events continue to occur, medical boards and healthcare facilities continue to tolerate incompetent physicians, hospitals do not take steps to eliminate unnecessary surgeries and medical negligence remains the third leading cause of death in America.

There are far too many patients harmed or killed each year by medical negligence, a fact Certified Legal Nurse Consultants know all too well. It’s shameful that the American public can’t even count on full disclosure and a genuine apology when they become the unfortunate victim of such egregious healthcare practices.

I’m Just Sayin’

P.S. Comment and share your opinion on why hospitals and physicians don’t disclose medical harm to patients.

2 thoughts on “Certified Legal Nurse Consultants Know All Too Well That Most Medical Errors Are Not Disclosed to Patients

  1. I think the hospitals and physicians don’t want to admit to mistakes and poor care. Maybe fear of how they would look in the eyes of their peers as being weak? Maybe they think money cures wrongdoings.
    I’m afraid they will not take the time to say “sorry.”

  2. The Department of Nursing failed to apologize to me, despite clearly negligent decision making. I have panic reactions and distrust associated with current leaders in a large Midwestern facility after 33 years. Physicians are not the offending ones many times. I am a nurse of integrity and am not afraid to say I am sorry.

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*The opinions and statements made by Vickie Milazzo, the founder of Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, Inc. are based on her experiences and expertise, should not be applied beyond the specific context provided, and do not guaranty or project actual results. Vickie Milazzo is no longer involved in the operations or management of the business, but is involved as an independent education consultant.

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