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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

How does routine disclosure of medical error affect patients' propensity to sue and their assessment of provider quality?: Evidence from survey data.

Helmchen LA, Richards MR, McDonald TB. Medical care. 2010;48:955-61.

Errors are often not disclosed to patients, in part due to providers' fear of subsequent malpractice lawsuits. Proponents of an extreme honesty approach to disclosure have argued that patients may be less likely to sue if errors are disclosed promptly and completely, and a recent study from the University of Michigan provides some support for this approach. This survey found that although more than one quarter of respondents would sue after learning of a medical error, patients who had confidence that their physicians would appropriately disclose errors were less likely to sue and more likely to subsequently recommend the provider or institution. These results highlight the importance of open communication with patients and families about errors.