Do Florida Doctors Have to Reveal Mistakes to Patients?

Do Florida Doctors Have to Reveal Mistakes to Patients?

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 17-Jan-2014

Stethoscope and Gavel

Hundreds of thousands of people are victims of medical errors every year. Accurately estimating the number of people harmed by medical errors is difficult, as many of these mistakes go unreported. The most recent study on the prevalence of medical errors estimates somewhere between 210,000 and 400,000 fatal errors occur each year. This makes medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in the country. Most troubling is that these errors are largely preventable.

When a medical error occurs, the physical effects can be life changing and even fatal. Sometimes, it's the emotional and mental effects that last the longest. The trauma associated with being a medical error victim is made worse when a doctor or hospital puts up a wall to keep you out. This lack of acknowledgement makes it harder for the victims to come to terms with their injuries.

Florida Doctors are Legally Required to Inform Patients of Adverse Incidents Resulting in Serious Harm.

Florida law indicates both doctors and hospitals are required to notify patients in person when a medical error results in serious harm and to inform the family of the victims in the case of a fatal medical error. Preventable medical errors that take a patient's life may give rise to a wrongful death claim.

This notification may occur during a sit-down meeting in a hospital conference room following a wrong-site surgical error or a medication mistake. It could also be a conversation that happens in your hospital room or at the doctor's office. The type of conversation, who is present, and what is said are typically determined by the protocol for the particular hospital or medical practice.

What about When a Medical Error Doesn't Cause "Serious Harm"?

Florida law is specific to medical mistakes that result in serious harm. If an error is made that doesn't result in what a doctor or hospital considers serious harm, you may never be informed. Doctors have an ethical duty to tell patients about these occurrences, but there is no legal requirement.

A 2006 study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicated that most patients never learn of a medical error because doctors shy away from such discussions whenever possible.

Why Aren't Doctors and Hospitals More Forthcoming?

It would be refreshing if doctors and hospitals immediately admitted mistakes when they occurred, no matter the outcome, but this doesn't always happen. Instead, these medical professionals are often more concerned about their reputations, the reputation of the hospital and the risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

While some doctors believe something should be said when an error occurs, they don't always agree on how much should be shared. The AHRQ study found that only 42% of doctors supported "full disclosure", or admitting fully that the adverse event was caused by an "error." In other words, many don't want to admit they played a role in the negative outcome.

Full Disclosure is Better for Patients, Doctors, and Hospitals

Despite the reluctance by doctors and hospitals to be completely open and honest when it comes to disclosing errors, research has shown that disclosure is beneficial for all parties-both financially and otherwise. Still, patients who are victims of medical mistakes often remain uninformed of errors in their treatment. A personal injury attorney who is experienced at handling medical malpractice cases can obtain your medical records and get them reviewed by a medical professional to determine whether a doctor or health care provider failed to follow the recognized standard of care in your treatment and caused a preventable medical error. It's the only way that you may understand what actually happened.

Categories: Medical Malpractice
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