Institutional responses to medical mistakes: ethical and legal perspectives

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2001 Jun;11(2):147-56. doi: 10.1353/ken.2001.0018.


Health care institutions must decide whether to inform the patient of a medical error. The barriers to disclosure are an aversion to admitting errors, a concern about implicating other practitioners, and a fear of lawsuits and liability. However, admission of medical errors is the ethical thing to do and may be required by law. When examined, the barriers to such disclosures have little merit, and, in fact, lawsuits and liability may actually be reduced by informing the patient of medical errors. Therefore, a health care institution should implement a written policy providing for disclosure of medical errors, using a process such as that outlined in the article.

MeSH terms

  • Disclosure*
  • Ethics, Institutional
  • Health Facilities / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal
  • Medical Errors / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Organizational Policy*