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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Disclosure of medical injury to patients: an improbable risk management strategy.

Studdert DM, Mello MM, Gawande AA, et al. Health affairs (Project Hope). 2007;26:215-26.

Patients clearly desire full disclosure of medical errors in a prompt and transparent fashion, as documented in prior research. Some proponents of full disclosure argue that physicians should benefit from such policies, as greater transparency may lead to fewer malpractice lawsuits. However, most patients injured by medical care do not sue, and few studies review the effect of disclosure policies on malpractice liability. This study used mathematical modeling techniques to demonstrate that under a universal full disclosure policy, the total number of malpractice lawsuits is likely to rise as many patients will be "prompted" to sue, and malpractice costs will consequently increase. The authors agree that fully disclosing errors is "the right thing to do," but caution that the financial implications of this policy are unclear.