Even when new information regarding the medical error will not alter the patient’s medical treatment or therapeutic options, individual physicians who have been involved in a (possible) medical error should:
- Disclose the occurrence of the error, explain the nature of the (potential) harm, and provide the information needed to enable the patient to make informed decisions about future medical care.
- Acknowledge the error and express professional and compassionate concern toward patients who have been harmed in the context of health care.
- Explain efforts that are being taken to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
- Provide for continuity of care to patients who have been harmed during the course of care, including facilitating transfer of care when a patient has lost trust in the physician.
Physicians who have discerned that another health care professional (may have) erred in caring for a patient should:
- Encourage the individual to disclose.
- Report impaired or incompetent colleagues in keeping with ethics guidance.
As professionals uniquely positioned to have a comprehensive view of the care patients receive, physicians must strive to ensure patient safety and should play a central role in identifying, reducing, and preventing medical errors. Both as individuals and collectively as a profession, physicians should:
- Support a positive culture of patient safety, including compassion for peers who have been involved in a medical error.
- Enhance patient safety by studying the circumstances surrounding medical error. A legally protected review process is essential for reducing health care errors and preventing patient harm.
- Establish and participate fully in effective, confidential, protected mechanisms for reporting medical errors.
- Participate in developing means for objective review and analysis of medical errors.
- Ensure that investigation of root causes and analysis of error leads to measures to prevent future occurrences and that these measures are conveyed to relevant stakeholders.