A medical error may be defined as a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis, or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection, or other ailments. Medical errors are associated with inexperienced physicians and nurses. New procedures, extremes of age, complex care and urgent care, the vast majority of medical errors result from faulty systems and poorly designed processes versus poor practices or incompetent practitioners. No responsible healthcare professional will argue with the need for strategies to reduce medical errors and provide assurances for patient safety.
Truth Telling/ Justice and Fairness
Clearly, human relationships depend on the communication of information. Without an honest sharing of information, there can be no trust. Unfortunately, not telling the entire truth in a situation usually means additional shading of the truth or outright lying when questions arise.
In the assessment of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, “the important question is not should I tell the truth, but how I should tell the truth, or how should I share information, important or not, with those who are asking me questions or who need to know what the truth is.”
Patient’s Right to Know
Patients and their families have a right to know about the medical error incident during the course of their treatment and how it may potentially affect them. A patient’s bill of rights as published by the American Hospital Association states: open and honest communication, respect for personal and professional values, and sensitivity to differences are integral to optimal patient care.
Adherence to the Hospital’s Mission Statement, Ethical Standards, and Values Statement
Each physician and the executive must determine if his or her actions are consistent with their respective ethical standards. The American Hospital Association’s Advisory on Ethical Conduct for Healthcare Institutions clearly delineates the ethical responsibilities of the governing board and the CEO lending credence to the argument that ethical matters involving patient-physician relationships are indeed the “business of the hospital.”
Management’s Role and Responsibility
Hospital management must take measures to assist staff in-appropriately coping with medical errors. Also, healthcare executive is mandated to carry out the policies which include ensuring compliance with the ethical standards approved by the board for the practices of the institution. Healthcare executive is charged with the responsibility for ensuring that the institution operates in ways that are consistent with its mission statement and its statement of values. According to Austin Ross in his book, Cornerstones of Leadership for Healthcare
Services Executives says that “ The CEO’s greatest source of support in preserving ethical conduct within the organization is the organizational mission.” Also, according to Bennis and Namus on this point. “The leader is responsible for the set of ethics or norms that govern the behavior of people in the organization.