In a recent survey published in the journal Health Affairs, Massachusetts researchers found that one-in-ten doctors have knowingly lied to a patient in the past year. The study also revealed that half of the doctors admittedly “described a patient’s prognosis in a more positive manner than warranted.” What is perhaps the most alarming statistic from the study, though, is that one- in-five doctors didn’t disclose a medical mistake out of fear of being sued for medical malpractice. This sentiment reflects much of the motivation behind Governor Deval Patrick’s push for reform of medical malpractice laws, which would allow doctors to admit mistakes without fear of it becoming evidence in a later medical malpractice suit (see previous blog here).
Massachusetts is home to some of the world’s most skilled and experienced medical professionals and well-equipped facilities, but even top doctors commit medical errors. The fact that 20% of doctors admitted to not disclosing a medical error, leaving the patient at risk for an even greater injury, amounts to an even higher degree of medical malpractice.
The researchers discovered that male doctors are more likely to lie to patients versus their female counterparts. Further, doctors who graduated from foreign medical schools, outside the US and Canada, were more apt to lie to patients or attempt to cover up a medical mistake. The were also variations amongst medical specialties, as general surgeons and pediatricians were least likely to conceal or lie about medical errors to patients, while cardiologists and psychiatrists were more likely to cover-up medical errors.