Ethical and practical aspects of disclosing adverse events in the emergency department

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2006 Aug;24(3):703-14. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2006.05.015.


Physicians and hospitals should be aware of the ethical duty to disclose a medical error that causes harm to a patient. Disclosure should be made to the affected patient or, when appropriate, to a family member of the patient. The manner in which the disclosure process is performed is also important. In emergency medicine, disclosure discussions are problematic because of the limited nature of the patient-physician relationship. The initial disclosure can be conducted in a way that maintains or even improves the relationship with the patient, or in a manner that damages trust. This article discusses the importance of disclosure in emergency medicine; the ethical basis for, and barriers to, disclosure; and the key elements of the disclosure process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medicine / ethics*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / ethics*
  • Truth Disclosure / ethics*