Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hospitals study when to apologize to patients
Harvard Medical School's major teaching hospitals are considering adopting a sweeping disclosure policy that would establish detailed procedures for physicians to openly acknowledge medical errors and other bad results to their patients, and provide for training in apologizing.

A group of physicians, patients, and executives from the hospitals, led by Dr. Lucian Leape, a national specialist on patient safety, began drafting the policy last year. In recent months, the group circulated a 50-page first draft among hospital leaders, who responded favorably to its broad goals but have suggested numerous revisions, which the group is now implementing.

If Harvard's largest teaching hospitals -- Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Children's Hospital Boston -- adopt the policy, it would create a uniform response across the Harvard system to some of medicine's most difficult situations. The Harvard hospitals also would join a growing number of US medical centers and malpractice insurers that are embracing immediate and open disclosure and apology to patients when medical care goes wrong.