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Should Medical Errors Be Disclosed to Pediatric Patients? Pediatricians' Attitudes Toward Error Disclosure

Kolaitis, I. N.; Schinasi, D. A.; Ross, L. F.

Acad Pediatr. 2015 Sep 4; 16(5):482-8


OBJECTIVE: Limited data exist on medical error disclosure in pediatrics. We sought to assess physicians' attitudes toward error disclosure to parents and pediatric patients. METHODS: An anonymous survey was distributed to 1200 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Surveys included 1 of 4 possible cases that only varied by patient age (16 or 9 years old) and by whether the medical error resulted in reversible or irreversible harm. Statistical analyses included chi-square, Bonferroni-adjusted P values, Fisher's exact test, Wilcoxon signed rank test, and logistic regressions including key demographic factors, patient age, and error reversibility. RESULTS: The response rate was 40% (474 of 1186). Overall, 98% of respondents believed it was very important to disclose medical errors to parents versus 57% to pediatric patients (P < .0001). Respondents believed that medical errors could be disclosed to developmentally appropriate pediatric patients at a mean age of 12.15 years old (SD 3.33), but not below a mean age of 10.25 years old (SD 3.55). Most respondents (72%) believed that physicians and parents should jointly decide whether to disclose to pediatric patients. When disclosing to pediatric patients, 88% of respondents believed that physicians should disclose with the parents present. Logistic regressions found only patient age (odds ratio 18.65, 95% confidence interval 9.20-37.8) and error reversibility (odds ratio 2.90, 95% confidence interval 1.73-4.86) to affect attitudes toward disclosure to pediatric patients. Respondent sex, year of medical school graduation, and area of practice had no effect on disclosure attitudes. CONCLUSIONS: Most respondents endorse disclosing medical errors to parents and older pediatric patients, particularly when irreversible harm occurs.

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