A new study by the “Journal of General Internal Medicine” found that doctors are loath to admit medical mistakes. Virtually every doctor in the study of 538 doctors surveyed – 97 percent – agreed that they would report a theoretical medical error. But only 41 percent said they had actually disclosed a minor medical error they made.
In other words, half the doctors surveyed believe they have never made even a minor medical mistake. “It seems fair to assume that all of us have made at least a minor error, if not a major error, sometime in our careers,” Dr. Lauris Kaldjian, a University of Iowa professor of internal medicine said, stating the obvious to the Kansas City Star.
This study conjures up memories of the kind of doctor Alec Baldwin’s character Jed Hill pretended to be in the movie “Malice”. Do this many doctors really believe they have never made even a minor mistake in their entire careers?
Medical malpractice lawsuits do not change the calculus. Data from the survey suggests no link between doctors who had faced malpractice lawsuits and the likelihood of reporting errors. Apparently, having a medical malpractice suit filed against a doctor does not increase the likelihood that the doctor has ever committed a negligent act.
The only logical interpretation of this is that doctors do not commit medical malpractice. Medical doctors and hospitals may want to believe this, but the U.S. government’s Institute of Medicine estimated that 44,000-98,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors. This is more than the number of people who die in auto and truck accidents. A critical step in fighting the medical malpractice problem is doctors admitting that there is a medical malpractice problem. We are not there yet.