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Not enough doctors apologize after surgical errors occur

Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are only human. Despite their years of training and experience, surgical errors can still occur. However, too few doctors here in Oregon and elsewhere apologize to the patients and/or their families when this happens. In fact, some will not even provide full disclosure regarding the mistake, and the victims and their families are left with many unanswered questions.

There are guidelines for surgeons to follow when discussing with the patient and/or the family an error that occurred during a surgical procedure. A recent study noted that only around 55 percent of the surgeons involved revealed whether the mistake could have been prevented and/or apologized for it. Furthermore, the data showed that most surgeons only follow some of the guidelines.

A majority of the surgeons involved in the study revealed within 24 hours that an error had occurred during the procedure. They outlined the circumstances that led to the error and showed regret and concern for the welfare of the patient. The surgeons would then outline the necessary steps to treat the problems caused by the mistake. However, this might not be enough for many Oregon residents.

When surgical errors occur, patients could be facing additional medical procedures and care that would not have been necessary otherwise -- if they survive the mistake. In many cases, an apology would go a long way toward helping a patient and/or a family move forward. Even so, the financial, emotional and physical damage the mistake caused will still need to be addressed. An apology does not release the responsible party or parties from liability, and a medical malpractice claim could be appropriate.

Source: CBS News, "Would a surgeon tell you if a medical error occurred during your operation?", Mary Brophy Marcus, July 20, 2016

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