What should a doctor do when he discovers another doctor’s mistake?

An interesting question.

Amy Tuteur asks this question at a dinner party, and it elicits a whole host of responses. If a patient asks directly, the answer is easy. But what if the patient doesn’t ask? Is there an ethical requirement to disclose another physician’s error?

My first reaction, along with Dr. Tuteur’s, would be full disclosure, meaning that the patient should know everything that any doctor would want to know in a similar situation.

However she finds some resistance to that position, with other medical professionals arguing that “telling a patient about a mistake that cannot be fixed will upset her unnecessarily, erode trust in a doctor the patient may be still relying upon, and provide absolutely no benefit.”

Perhaps elucidating whether a patient would want to know such information should be elicited first before proceeding.

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories