Our survey shows that after an adverse event patients expect more detailed information than doctors believe should be given. Doctors’ reluctance to provide detailed information to patients after adverse events is often an attempt to protect the patient from potentially detrimental anxiety. However, doctors may also avoid telling patients because it is a time consuming, difficult, and unpleasant task and because they fear losing a patient’s trust, being blamed, and perhaps sued. In addition, it has been suggested that the current medical culture, in which error is often automatically equated with professional incompetence or inadequacy, makes admission to either patients or colleagues difficult.4
Many studies show, however, that failure to provide information, an explanation, and an apology increases the risk of litigation and erodes the patient-doctor relationship.5
After an adverse event, patients want disclosure of the event, admission of responsibility, an explanation, an apology, and prevention of future similar errors; in some cases, they also want the offender to be punished and to obtain financial compensation.5
The practice of medicine can never be free of errors,4
and changes are required in the attitudes of both patients and the medical profession, with realistic expectations of the limitations of doctors and medicine and greater, blame free openness. In the light of the new regulations from the General Medical Council, failure to acknowledge an adverse event arising during treatment may now have serious professional consequences for a practitioner.