Patients have a right to know the safety records of their doctors before undergoing medical treatment. Hospitals rigorously investigate medical errors, but do not make specific information on who is at fault public. For example, a patient may be unable to see if the surgeon who performed his or her heart surgery has committed prior medical errors, such as leaving equipment in patients. Patients affected by medical negligence are often never told it was their doctor who is responsible for their injuries
There are exceptions to this rule. In cases where doctors and hospitals are sued for malpractice, public records might exist. The same goes for disciplinary action taken against doctors by state medical boards. In many other cases, patients are left in the dark about past and present medical errors committed by their doctors.
Patients are hurt by a lack of transparency nationwide. For example, a woman from Cleveland was recently interviewed by the local press to discuss how lack of hospital transparency killed her husband. Her husband, a former Vietnam veteran, died as a result of a medical error during a common procedure. Doctors had left surgical gauze in the stomach of her husband, which later caused a fatal infection. The hospital failed to inform the woman and her husband of the mistake.
Patients Have a Right to Know About Medical Errors
It is unacceptable that hospitals would be more concerned with protecting unsafe doctors than patient safety. Patients and their families have a right to know if medical errors have occurred, especially if there is still time to improve outcomes. In the case of this woman and her husband, they only found out about the surgical gauze after seeking out a second opinion from another hospital. Had this error been caught in time, her husband might still be alive.