Pediatricians may not tell parents when they make a mistake in a child’s care. The Institute of Medicine issued a report several years ago documenting widespread hospital errors. In the aftermath of this eye-opening analysis, health professionals called for more transparency regarding medical errors. A more recent study revealed that medication errors affect as many as one out of fifteen hospitalized children. How often are parents advised of such mistakes?
A study suggests that many pediatricians are unlikely to reveal errors. The scientists surveyed more than 200 pediatricians and asked what they would do in two hypothetical scenarios: one in which a child got the wrong dose of insulin, and one in which a laboratory result was overlooked and the child was hospitalized as a result. Most of the respondents felt that these errors would be serious and that they would feel responsible.
Approximately half of them said they would definitely tell the parents about the problem; about 40 percent thought they would probably tell the parents, and about 7 percent said they would talk about the mistake if they were asked a direct question.
Doctors were more likely to disclose an error if they felt the parents would already be aware of it or if it was quite obvious. They were also more likely to apologize in that case. Even when pediatricians were willing to reveal a mistake, they often indicated that they would leave some details out. Not revealing medical mistakes is an ethical violation. It also makes it more difficult for hospitals to change procedures so that similar errors become less likely in the future.
[Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Oct. 2008]

Join Over 75,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Health Care Advocate
    Reply

    I’m shocked that doctors DON’T tell parents when they’ve made a mistake in their child’s health care. Probably just brush it under the rug as a “whoops” and try another treatment.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.