While many patients understand what to ask before they go into surgery, one of the things they may not know is what their medical provider should be disclosing after a surgery is complete.
Many patients do ask themselves if a surgeon would tell them if something went wrong or may have gone wrong. Surgeons may not want to put themselves in a position where they could be sued or accused of malpractice. Realistically, disclosing anything that went wrong might upset a patient or make them concerned about their provider’s services, education and skill.
In a study published by JAMA Surgery, 60 surgeons were asked what they’d disclose after surgery if an adverse surgical event had occurred. There are eight current recommended disclosure practices that they are meant to follow, and most surgeons said they’d follow at least five, including:
- Disclosing that a mistake was made within 24 hours of the operation
- Explaining why the error took place
- Showing regret that the error had occurred
- Being concerned for the patient’s health and welfare
- Identifying and taking steps to correct the problem, when possible
What many surgeons did not admit to doing was apologizing for their actions or talking about if that error could have been prevented in any way.
Is it ethical not to tell patients about mistakes?
In general, it’s now widely accepted that patients need to be told when something unexpected happens during surgery, even if it was no fault of the medical provider. When a surgery goes longer than planned or complications develop that weren’t expected, it’s reasonable to talk to the patient and/or their representatives about these issues.
What should surgeons tell their patients?
Patients should be told about the surgery, how it went and any complications or issues that arose during it that were not previously discussed and expected. If a patient has questions about the severity of an illness or how the surgery went, then those questions should be answered. If your medical provider doesn’t want to disclose information about your surgery or has incomplete records, you may want to look into further legal options and to explore the possibility of a medical malpractice claim.