Saturday, February 09, 2013

Why is it so hard for doctors to say sorry


It’s a fact of life that all doctors will make mistakes and errors, some of which will cause harm to the patient. Oftentimes this harm is self-limited , and the doctor can fix the problem , but nevertheless the fact remains that the doctor goofed up.

Doctors are good people who honestly feel sorry when something bad happens to their patients - especially when he was responsible for the harm. Every doctor thinks of himself as a caring professional , and when he causes injury to his patient, it's a major blow to his self-esteem. Most would be quite happy to say apologize ; and come clean by explaining to the patient , what went wrong – and how they will fix the problem . I am sure this is what most patients would want as well.. Unfortunately most doctors are extremely reluctant to do so , and because they are scared , they pretend, and try to cover up their mistakes by lying.  This often ends up making a bad situation worse , because patients are smart , and can smell something is wrong . When they get multiple versions of the same story, they can sense something is amiss – and if harm has been caused and no one is willing to level with them , they are likely to get angry that no one is telling them the truth. This addition of insult to injury is often the last straw – and patients start getting vengeful and want to punish the doctor.

The reason doctors are scared to say sorry is because of our present adversarial legal system . If there were some way by which patients could gracefully accept an apology from the doctor and forgive them , because they know that doctors are humans and mistakes can happen , life would be much easier both for doctors and patients – and for future patients as well, because doctors would work on fixing the system and making sure the errors did not recur. In a atmosphere of openness and transparency, everyone would function far more efficiently , humanely and compassionately .

However , because doctors are so scared of being sued for negligence , and because lawyers have put the fear of lawsuits into doctors , they are not willing to be open . This is why they try to do their best to cover up. This causes a lot of harm for patients , who then don't trust doctors anymore ; and for doctors themselves , because they then have to live with this guilt all their lives.


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