In Hospitals, Silence Hurts

Can Candor programs help patients and hospitals?For victims of medical mistakes and their families, emotional pain and suffering continue long after errors are made. Victims and family members may want answers, and in many cases, hospitals only offer silence. A recent Forbes article covered this subject quite well, and it shows how patients and health care providers are emotionally hurt by medical mistakes.

Take for example the most recent medical mistake to make national headlines, in which a Yale doctor undergoing residency removed the wrong rib from his patient. This patient claimed to be upset because the hospital remained completely silent on the mistake, even though it put her life in jeopardy and caused significant pain. No apology was offered and the patient felt neglected.

Healthcare providers can also suffer from feelings of intense remorse after making a medical mistake. In 2010, a Seattle nurse accidently gave an infant a fatal dose of medication. After her firing and a state nursing commission investigation, she committed suicide.

Can hospitals move past the culture of silence that hurts patients and health care providers?

Will Candor Programs End the Culture of Silence in Hospitals?

Some state legislatures may soon enable hospitals to abandon the culture of silence. Iowa was the first state to enact Candor programs (Communication and Optimal Resolution), which authorize joint statements from hospitals and doctors after medical mistakes are made. Health care providers discuss what went wrong with patients and family members. Patients and families are also invited into the investigation process.

Open communication and transparency can make patients feel respected instead of simply being cast off as liabilities. Candor programs also give health care providers the chance to relieve the guilt associated with making mistakes.

Medical mistakes can have permanent consequences for patients and their families. In some cases, although an apology is welcome, it may not be enough to repair the damage done. However, Candor programs could help patients and families avoid feeling abandoned by health care professionals they trusted.

Shapiro Law Group is a Tampa Bay medical malpractice law firm dedicated to helping the victims of medical wrongdoing.


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