12. Disclosure of medical errors: A view through a global lens

J. Kalra, H. Neufeld, A. Mulla


There are ongoing efforts worldwide to minimize the occurrence of medical errors. However, the issue of honest disclosure of a medical error to the patient or their family has been relatively unattended. We have previously reported the Canadian provincial initiatives encouraging open disclosure of a critical event and have suggested its integration into a ‘no-fault’ model. In the absence of uniform policies directing appropriate disclosure of a medical error, substantial scope exists for breaching the patient’s trust if errors during the process of care are not disclosed. We reviewed the various medical error disclosure initiatives across the globe to analyze the progress made in this key area. In 2001, the United States (US) Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) mandated an open disclosure of any critical event during care to the patient or their families. This was deemed as an essential accreditation standard for the institution. In Australia, the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care integrates the disclosure process with a risk management analysis towards investigating the critical event. In New Zealand, the patients suffering a medical error are rehabilitated and compensated through a no-fault, state-funded compensation scheme. The National Health Services (NHS) of the United Kingdom directs the doctors and managers to inform a patient of an act of negligence or omission that causes harm. The NHS scheme offers a remedial package to the patient including an apology and financial compensation in return for the patients waiving their right to litigate. The Canadian provincial initiatives, though similar in content, remain isolated because of their non-mandatory nature and absence of federal or provincial laws on disclosure. In Conclusion, we suggest that a uniform national policy centered on addressing errors in a non-punitive manner and respecting the patient’s right to an honest disclosure be implemented.
Kalra J, Massey KL, Mulla A. Disclosure of medical error: policies and practice. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2005; 98(7): 307-09.
Hebert PC, Levin AV, Robertson G. Bioethics for clinicians: 23. Disclosure of medical error. CMAJ 2001; 164(4):509-13.
Mazor KM, Simon SR, Gurwitz JH. Communicating with patients about medical errors: a review of the literature. Arch Intern Med. 2004; 164(15):1690-7.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25011/cim.v30i4.2772


  • There are currently no refbacks.

© 2007-2017 Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation.
C.I.M. provides open access to all of its content 6 months after the date of publication