Doctors Must Protect Patients and Report Unsafe Colleagues

A recent study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association highlights the need for more physicians to report colleagues who endanger patient safety.

The study, conducted by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, surveyed 3,000 doctors nationwide about reporting colleagues who are incompetent or who engage in substance abuse or other improper behavior. More than one-third responded that they do not fully support the idea that these doctors should be reported, according to a Boston Globe editorial on the study. Just over one-third of doctors with direct knowledge of a colleague’s impairment kept quiet.

While many states mandate reporting, the study found many physicians did not act because they thought someone else was already handling the problem. Other reasons included fear of retribution and cultural differences. The study found minorities and doctors with degrees from overseas were less likely to report peers.

Beyond reporting mandates, the right to practice medicine is a privilege. Because patients’ lives are at stake, there must be zero tolerance for physicians not reporting any medical professional engaging in suspect behavior.

Medicine is a profession, not a club where doctors should be allowed to protect each other above and beyond patients. Hospitals and senior physicians need to embrace the idea of reporting so other doctors understand their obligation.

The Boston medical malpractice lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have extensive experience handling complex medical malpractice claims, including medication errors, failure to diagnose cancer and surgical malpractice. We have seen first-hand how doctors who ignore a colleague’s improper actions endanger patient safety. These doctors need to remember there are consequences and in their profession, those consequences can come at a moment’s notice.

To read an abstract of the study, visit The Journal of the American Medical Association.

To read an editorial about the study, visit The Boston Globe.

Breakstone, White & Gluck serves individuals in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and all Massachusetts. We handle cases involving personal injury, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents and insurance bad faith claims. If you need help with a case, please contact us today at (617) 723-7676 or through our online form.