Doctors as the “Second Victim” of a Medical Mistake

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

Most people consider doctors or nurses who cause patients harm the perpetrators.  This can be accurate when health care providers who make such mistakes are careless, negligent, have taken on too many cases due to greed, are sloppy, or just incompetent.  However this is often not the case.  Many doctors when they make a medical mistake consider it one of the worst experiences of their lives, even if it is noticed and fixed.  These are well-meaning providers who used their expert training but made an honest error and tend to feel very remorseful over the error.

 

In most of the cases where an honest mistake was made there tend to be extenuating circumstances that contributed to the mistake.  In one case a doctor mistakenly performed the wrong surgery on a patient’s finger.  Prior to this surgery the nurse did not mark the incision site though the correct arm was marked.  People were stressed due to the surgeons being behind schedule.  The patient was moved to a different operating room so the nurse who prepped thee patient for surgery was not present for the surgery.  Lastly, during the middle of the procedure the nursing team changed.  All these occurrences could have impacted the doctor during surgery. However, the doctor did quickly notice his mistake and corrected it. 

 

The term “second victim” is used for health care providers who made an honest medical mistake because they are often deeply impacted by the mistake.  There is an emotional and psychological toll felt by the health care provider who made the mistake.  The health care provider can often feel guilt, incompetent, or inadequate and this can affect their performance and even destroy their careers.  When these providers stay quiet about the errors they have made it can complicate the issue.  Reasons for staying quiet include fearing for their reputation or pressure from hospital lawyers and risk managers not to admit to the mistakes they have made.

 

The silence over mistakes leads to the mistakes being made in the future.  Many believe that disclosing medical errors, conducting independent reviews, and apologizing and negotiating financial compensation with patients outside the courts will reduce the number of lawsuits.  Disclosure can also help the health care providers with personal healing and learning from their mistakes.

 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] .  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com

 

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