New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Medical Malpractice


December 3rd, 2007

Medical Malpractice and the White Coat of Silence

A study released today shows that almost half the nation’s doctors fail to report unethical, incompetent or dangerous colleagues. According to the study by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 46% of doctors admitted they knew of a serious medical error that had been made but did not tell authorities about it.

Some of the data from the survey:

Up to 96 percent of those surveyed said they should report all instances of significant incompetence or medical errors to the hospital clinic or to authorities. The exception was among cardiologists and surgeons, with just about 45 percent agreeing.

Why cardiologists and surgeons are more prone to cover-ups isn’t something I know, but I’m certainly curious about the answer.

There was also a disconnect among doctors about what they felt should be done, and what they actually do:

While 93 percent of doctors said they should provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, only 69 percent actually accepted uninsured patients who cannot pay.

In 2000, the U.S. Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors in hospitals alone.

And so, while some states have been doing what they can to encourage apologies for errors (see: More Doctors Encouraged To Say “I’m Sorry”), there are still many doctors that feel burying the mistakes is better.

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posted by Kia Franklin @ December 04, 2007 2:40 PM

6 thoughts on “Medical Malpractice and the White Coat of Silence

  1. “In 2000, the U.S. Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors in hospitals alone.”

    Eric do you understand the methodology of the report? Did you read the report? Do you understand that the report was (and is) considered controversial in the medical community? Have you read any of the other associated Dr. comments and reports from that era (1999-2000). Do you understand one of the lead authors of the report (Dr Leape) has built (actually rebuilt) his career from the report such that subsequent articles pointing out flaws in the study have resulted in terse (and at times not well explained) responses? Nothing harder than trying to discuss with an academic a view that has made there career.

    I am not saying the report is wrong Eric, I am saying there where flaws in the methodology and the sad fact is you and most of the lay non-medical public have no clue as to what I am talking about. It is sexier (and better for business right eric) to just quote a report that furthers your cause then to actually understand the methodology and corresponding conclusions. A little homework Eric. The following article from JAMA gives a different view of the subject. Why don’t you read it.

    Estimating hospital deaths due to medical error. Preventability is in the eye of the reviewer. JAMA Vol 286, 415-420 (2001).

  2. The IOM report was cited favorably in a 9/6/07 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine;

    And by Medicare (May, 2007)

    And that was only with a couple minutes searching. So I am not the only one who cites the report.

    I’m aware that the results come from extrapolation, and that therefore the numbers are obviously estimates.

  3. The reference (which is available online) points to a variety of problems in looking at the data, not the least of which is that reviewers often don’t agree. The problems they point out are inherent in trying to do this kind of study. They don’t say that the results are wrong, just difficult to take as gospel. (Nor do they suggest a better way of measuring.) I’ve always assumed as much given the very broad range of the IOM study, saying that the range is 44,000 to 98,000. That is an awful big range.

    I would add that I deal with many of the same factors in medical malpractice suits. Sometimes documentation is missing or self-serving making analysis difficult. Sometimes the issue of causation is predominant (OK, we screwed up, but it didn’t matter). Sometimes multiple experts look at the exact same thing and come to different conclusions.

    I think the study, which is still cited authoritatively in many places even if it isn’t perfect, does a good job though at pointing out a big problem that often gets glossed over.

  4. Eric
    You are clearly not reading the article critically. About who “cites” the article. The reason should be obvious. The lay press is interested in sexy sound bites for readership numbers. The simple fact is that the second article is in JAMA. A top medical journal. Don’t you find it curious why IOM’s report is cited repeatedly yet this article is rarely? This issue is not even close to being black and white. I am sorry you don’t understand the implications.

  5. I need a lawyer. I am losing my battle and if I do recall. I have rights. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why do doctors or others make this some type of mental disorder such as somatization or other obsessive personality disorder. If they had been ill for seven years. in severe pain and litterally their bodies deteriorating as mine has they would pursue life. When you have your health you have everything. I am now trying to recover from the emotional abuse which has been exibited by over 40 doctors with an demining and belittling tone. So it’s like this, DON’T come back we wont help you or any of your family including my kids. Now that is just plain sick and so I will have my body totally examined with a determined cause of death and my family will get the small token of what they endured once the autopsy is complete if theres anything left. I will donate it to science.