Journal Article

How surgeons disclose medical errors to patients: a study using standardized patients.  

Chan DK, Gallagher TH, Reznick R, et al. Surgery. 2005;138:851-8.

This study evaluated the capacity of 30 academic surgeons to discuss error scenarios, such as wrong-side surgery and retained sponges, with standardized patients. Investigators analyzed the conversations and discovered that 57% of the surgeons used the word "error" or "mistake," but less than half offered a verbal apology. The authors conclude that significant gaps exist between how physicians disclose medical errors and what patients expect in such conversations, thereby generating a need for educational intervention. The same authors previously wrote a commentary calling for professional action in disclosure of medical errors.