Thinking Ethically About Medical Mistakes

Smith, Martin L.
June 2013
Journal of Child Neurology;Jun2013, Vol. 28 Issue 6, p806
Academic Journal
Medical mistakes, especially ones with significant adverse events, can erode the trust and bonds between and among parents, patients, and health care professionals. Prevention of medical mistakes should be the goal of every health care organization, and participation in quality improvement processes aimed at patient safety is an ethical duty for all health care professionals. But when mistakes occur, health care organizations and professionals should rapidly move toward disclosure and apology. These duties of honesty, disclosure and apology are based ethically on core health care principles and values. Health care organizations should require disclosure-and-apology training, especially for front-line personnel; provide assistance to clinicians with these difficult conversations; and invest in resources to address the moral distress experienced by professionals, who are often the “second victims” of medical mistakes.


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