Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Emotional Costs of Medical Errors - Patient, Family, Physician

An editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine examines the issue of medical errors, in "Guilty, Afraid, and Alone — Struggling with Medical Error," in its October 25, 2007 edition. Tom Delbanco, MD and Sigall K. Bell, MD, ask "How can we characterize and address the human dimensions of medical error so that patients, families, and clinicians may reach some degree of closure and move toward forgiveness?"
"In interviews that our group conducted for a documentary film, patients and families that had been affected by medical error illuminated a number of themes. Three of these themes have been all but absent from the literature. First, though it is well recognized that clinicians feel guilty after medical mistakes, family members often have similar or even stronger feelings of guilt. Second, patients and their families may fear further harm, including retribution from health care workers, if they express their feelings or even ask about mistakes they perceive. And third, clinicians may turn away from patients who have been harmed, isolating them just when they are most in need."
Link to the entire article at NEJM: Guilty, Afraid, and Alone — Struggling with Medical Error

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