Should You Report the Medical Error of a Colleague? An Ethicist’s Point of View

Medscape has published a video (transcript included) of a medical ethicist from NYU Langone Medical Center concerning whether a colleague has a moral duty to report the medical mistake of a fellow practitioner. While Art Caplan, Ph.D. makes it clear that such mistakes should be reported, the language he uses to convey his point of view is interesting. He employs terms such as “snitch” and “ratting out” in describing how such behavior is often viewed in the medical community. This says a great deal about the state of the medical community in terms of patient safety. If one can take Dr. Caplan’s terminology as indicative of the present state of affairs, we have a long way to go to improve patient safety, beginning with the manner in which medical mistakes are perceived and handled.