Doctors Don’t Always Report Colleagues Medical Malpractice

Although virtually all doctors think they should report impaired or incompetent colleagues or serious medical errors to the relevant authorities, nearly half don’t, a study suggests Monday.
The authors say they are the first to try to broadly assess doctors’ support for and adherence to professional standards. The researchers, whose findings appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine, surveyed a national random sample of 3,504 practicing doctors between November 2003 and June 2004. They received responses from 1,662.

While 96% of respondents said doctors should always report impaired or incompetent colleagues, only 55% of those with direct personal knowledge of such doctors in the past three years said they always did so.

And while 93% of respondents said doctors should always alert authorities when they observe serious medical errors, only 54% of those who had such information in the past three years said they always did so.

“I think human beings always fall short of their aspirations,” senior author David Blumenthal says. “The intent of the paper was not to criticize but to … highlight the areas for improvement.”

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