The results of a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicate that doctors simply don’t like to rat each other out, despite the potentially serious or fatal consequences for patients. The survey results indicate that many American physicians did not report the troubling behavior of colleagues to authorities. Here are some highlights of the survey results:
- 64% agreed with the professional commitment to report doctors who are significantly impaired or otherwise incompetent to practice medicine.
- 69% reported being prepared to deal effectively with impaired colleagues in their practice.
- 64% reported being prepared to deal with incompetent colleagues.
- 17% said they had direct knowledge of a peer incompetent to practice in their hospital, group, or practice.
- 67% of this 17% reported the colleague to relevant authorities.
The most often cited reasons for failing to report?
- 19% said they thought someone else was taking care of the problem.
- 15% said they thought nothing would happen even if they did report the problem.
- 12% said they feared retribution.
The survey results are disappointing because there are resources available to doctors who are in trouble. You can find a good overview of options here. For his part, Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the AMA Institute for Ethics, would like to see 100 percent compliance with reporting requirements and to move toward that goal, he has called for more physician education on how to report problems with colleagues and for whistleblower protections. Let’s hope his calls to action do not fall on deaf ears.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.