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Disclosure of medical errors in New York

Residents of the state of New York have the right to expect competent and reasonable medical care from their doctors. However, it may sometimes happen that a mistake is made in the course of treatment. As most patients are not medically trained, it is common for them to be unaware of the error unless they are informed by their doctor or other medical practitioner. In response to this situation, a law has been passed specifically requiring all hospitals to report any errors.

Advocates on the issue indicate that doctors and physicians are often reluctant to discuss errors with their patients. Not only is this perceived as opening the door to a medical malpractice suit, it is also suspected that it might present a barrier to open communication with a patient. Surveys indicate that doctors will reveal that an issues exists in the vast majority of cases. However, approximately half the time they will couch the revelation in minimizing language that effectively conceals the fact that the issue results from an error.

Authorities speculate that doctors are reluctant to be forthcoming about errors because of the fear that an apology could be used as the foundation of a malpractice suit against them. Nevertheless, full disclosure has been advocated by several organizations and committees. Furthermore, studies show that patients are less likely to sue in situations where they feel the doctor has been honest with them.

New York residents who may have come to harm because of the action or inaction of a negligent doctor may choose to press a civil suit requesting restitution for their injury. The advice of an attorney might be of use to those who wish to develop and present such a case. The attorney may also be able to provide representation in the event of a court appearance or negotiation with the defendant.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Error Disclosure", October 22, 2014

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