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Physicians in South Carolina urged to report mistakes

It is estimated that more than 440,000 people die each year in hospitals as a result of preventable errors on the part of doctors and hospital staff. Whether this is due to medical malpractice or negligence, avoidable mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the Untied States, only surpassed by cancer and heart disease. Part of the reason for the frequency of mistakes is likely due to the fact that doctors are sometimes more likely to hide an error that they see than report it, even if they were not the one who erred.

In an effort to change the tone in hospitals from one of secrecy to openness, new guidelines published in the New England Journal of Medicine urge physicians to report mistakes that they see other practitioners making. By identifying when another member a medical team or hospital makes a mistake, the hospital can come closer to identifying what may have led to the error and prevent it from happening in the future.

Similar to the movement to get doctors to report errors is one where physicians are urged to admit errors to patients and apologize for them. Thirty-seven states have passed laws that enable doctors to admit to and explain errors to people without having their admission used against them in court. This has led to a decrease in the costs of malpractice claims. According to an expert, the goal is not to excuse negligence, but to acknowledge that a doctor is human.

While doctors are human beings who can make mistakes, negligence can lead to deadly consequences for patients. Patients who have been injured by a doctor's mistake may face increased and unexpected medical and living expenses. If a medical facility does not acknowledge or correct mistakes, a personal injury claim may allow a patient to get the care that he or she needs.

Source: NBC News, "When docs make mistakes, should colleagues tell? Yes, report says", JoNel Aleccia, October 29, 2013

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