Physicians' error reporting has always been a subject fraught with secrecy in New Jersey and around the country. Doctors do try to protect each other, but often not for the reasons patients and the public think. Often, the threat of medical malpractice keeps a doctor from reporting his own mistakes unless the patient is sure to find out.
A survey said that more than 50 percent of surgeons and other physicians have spotted the mistakes of other doctors. In occurrences of blatant medical error, physicians often have to perform surgeries or procedures to rectify the mistakes of other medical professionals. If they do not report these medical errors, it is for fear of reprisals in peer reviews or by not getting referrals from other physicians. Other factors such as the complexity of the case, gender, race and seniority may influence physician's decision not to confront the offending physician or to report the incident. On occasion, the error is not life threatening and can be corrected without the physician losing face. But often physicians wonder what would happen if they had made the error. Overt hostility from the medical community is often feared by reporting physicians.
Now physicians and hospitals are leaning toward new procedures to lessen reprisals for reporting other physician's mistakes. Some medical groups that run hospitals have implemented new procedures and requirements that make reporting mistakes mandatory. The rate of medical errors reported is higher of course at these hospitals, but the steps taken to prevent further errors are years ahead of other hospitals' procedures. This will result in better patient care and better transparency when medical errors do happen.
Not reporting medical malpractice seriously damages the doctor-patient relationship. In cases of obvious medical error, the services of an experienced personal injury attorney may be necessary.