Parents' perceptions of medical errors

J Patient Saf. 2010 Jun;6(2):102-7. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3181ddfcd0.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore parents' experiences related to events which they believed to be medical errors in their child's care.

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with parents who believed their child had experienced a medical error; responses were analyzed using qualitative methods.

Results: In 35 interviews, parents reported a variety of events that they believed to be errors. They described physical harm, emotional distress, life disruptions, changes in behavior, and damage to the relationship with the provider as a result of these events. Most parents felt that they had received no explanation of what had happened, no acknowledgement of the impact of the event, no apology and no acceptance of responsibility by a provider. Parents wanted providers to offer these responses, to express caring for the patient and to feel remorse. They also wanted to know that steps would be taken to prevent recurrences.

Conclusions: Perceived medical errors can impact both the patient and the family in many ways. We recommend that providers acknowledge the full impact of a perceived error and tailor their response to meet the specific needs of the patient and family.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medical Errors*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Young Adult