• Commentary
  • Published June 2019

'Poking the skunk': ethical and medico-legal concerns in research about patients' experiences of medical injury.

Patient engagement is now acknowledged as a cornerstone of patient safety, but the perspectives of patients who have experienced adverse events remain understudied. This interview study of 92 patients who had experienced iatrogenic injury identified several insights about the aftermath of adverse events. As with prior studies, researchers found that patients expressed a desire to be heard. Participants had positive perceptions of patient safety research and expressed a desire that others learn from the adverse event they experienced. The authors suggest that institutional review boards permit investigators to approach patients who have experienced adverse events to participate in studies, rather than prohibit such studies due to fear of causing further psychological harm. They also recommend that researchers discuss these adverse events with patients through a reciprocal lens, expressing support and sympathy rather than maintaining an emotionally distant stance. A previous PSNet interview with the lead author discussed disclosure and apology in health care.

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