21% of physicians would hide medical errors, depending on the situation: 5 trends in ethics

Practice Management

A higher percentage of physicians feel it's acceptable to hide a clinical mistake today than they did even two years ago, according to a Medscape report.

In 2014, 91 percent of physicians said it is never okay to cover up a medical error; however in the 2016 Medscape Ethics Report, only 78 percent of physicians said the same. Fourteen percent said "it depends" when asked whether it's acceptable to hide a clinical mistake resulting in patient harm, and 7 percent said it was acceptable.


Here are five key trends from the report:


1. Physicians may be more willing to hide mistakes than in the past, but at the same time there is a trend of hospitals voluntarily reporting mistakes, apologizing and offering compensation to avoid malpractice.


2. The Code of Medical Ethics from the American Medical Association calls on physicians to disclose medical errors in all occasions.


3. Half of the respondents — 51 percent — reported they would caution patients from having a procedure performed by a colleague they thought had "questionable ability" while another 34 percent said it would depend on the situation.


4. When it comes to the patient care budget, 78 percent said they wouldn't withhold treatments or tests to avoid penalties associated with exceeding the budget.


5. Around 45 percent of the respondents said they would prescribe a placebo to patients who demanded treatment that wasn't required, which is almost double the number of physicians who reported they'd do the same in 2010.


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