When M.D.s Mess Up

Do they tell their patients? Sometimes. But they define errors pretty narrowly

The blood-typing error that resulted in 17-year-old Jesica Santillan's being given the wrong heart and lungs was, by all accounts, an unusual mistake for the prestigious Duke University Hospital. Even rarer in some ways was the frank public acknowledgment of error by the hospital, followed by a sincere apology from her doctor. According to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that sort of thing doesn't happen often enough, especially for patients who desperately want more information about what's happening to them--both good and bad.

While we can be pretty sure that medical errors occur...

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