By some estimates, mistakes by doctors and other medical professionals are the leading cause of death in Kentucky and other parts of the United States. In some cases, the patients do not know that an error has occurred, but one report asserts that the mistake may have been noticed by other doctors. A recent survey conducted by a professor at the University of Washington's school of medicine found that, in 2012, more than half of the doctors who responded saw an error made by another physician. The results of the survey were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The professor suggests several reasons why doctors would not confront colleagues about mistakes that they have made. According to the report, some doctors do not criticize other physicians because they rely on each other for referrals. If a doctor gains a negative reputation among his or her peers because of such criticism, those referrals may decrease the doctor's ability to practice. Doctors may also be unwilling to disclose the mistake of another to a patient because that information may lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A medical malpractice attorney who used to work as a cardiologist suggested that the medical community is often hostile to criticism. The man admitted that he noticed many errors made by other doctors while he practiced, but he did not report them. He state that the main deterrent was the fear of retribution during quality assurance and peer reviews.
As the medical profession struggles to maintain a good relationship with the individuals they treat, the refusal to confront or report incompentant doctors may continue to cause harm to patients. Those doctors, however, may still be held liable for damages. Individuals who are injured as a result of medical malpractice may be able to receive compensation by filing a claim against a doctor in civil court.
Source: Pacific Standard, "Why Doctors Stay Silent About Mistakes Their Colleagues Make", Marshall Allen, November 25, 2013