Health | Local | Vital Signs

New Guide Helps Medical Practitioners Tell Patients About Mistakes

OPB | May 10, 2012 2:50 p.m. | Updated: June 7, 2013 10:24 a.m. | Portland, OR

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When a doctor or hospital makes a mistake, the state requires they write a letter to the patient. But half the time, that doesn’t happen.

Now, the Oregon Patient Safety Commission has issued a new guide to help doctors and hospitals come clean.

Telling someone you prescribed the wrong medication or made a mistake during a procedure, is not easy. Doctors and hospitals worry about everything from lawsuits to how to break the news.

Bethany Higgins of the Oregon Patient Safety Commission says the new guide may actually reduce litigation.

“There’s a lot of literature out there that really does demonstrate a clear linkage between the fact that you’ve been honest about what occurred, the fact that you’ve show empathy and explained that obviously this wasn’t intended. But that honest piece really can be looked at from a patient and family’s perspective as you’ve treated me with respect — you’ didn’t try to hide it.”

Oregon and Pennsylvania are the only two states in the nation that require patients be notified of mistakes by letter.

Oregon law also stipulates that the letter does not constitute an admission of liability; and that it cannot be introduced during any civil or administrative hearing.

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