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One Medical Mistake Can Lead To Another

One mistake can lead to another. This statement is generally true in a wide variety of human events. And recent research shows how it is particularly true with medical malpractice.

A study published in a medical journal called Anesthesia & Analgesia examined the results from a survey of 1,200 members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The purpose of the study was to assess how doctors respond to the emotional fallout of past surgical mistakes that carried catastrophic consequences.

The participants in the survey were randomly selected and 56 percent responded. A vast majority of those who responded - 84 percent - had been involved in a death or serious injury of a surgical patient.

Among those who had experienced such a traumatic event, over 70 percent reported feelings of guilt and anxiety over it.

Do such feelings dissipate over time? The study found that 88 percent of the physicians needed time to recover from the emotional impact of the injury or death. But 19 percent of the doctors - nearly 1 in 5 - reported that they never fully recovered psychologically from the catastrophic event.

This unresolved psychological trauma has serious implications for the care that later patients receive. In the survey, 67 percent of the doctors reported an emotional impairment in their ability to provide care in the first four hours after an adverse event. But only 7 percent of the doctors were given time off.

Such a disparity is a sign that patients may be at undue risk of medical mistakes because a doctor is psychologically distracted by a past event.

Source: "Medical errors psychologically detrimental for clinicians," Ann W. Latner, The Clinical Advisor, 4-17-12

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