Do doctors rat on each other?
If a doctor knew that a colleague was incompetent, drunk or high on drugs, would they turn them in? A new survey has some disturbing answers to that question.
Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of 2,938 doctors practicing in the United States in 2009 in anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics and psychiatry.
The good news is that 64 percent agreed that they had a professional obligation to report colleagues who were significantly impaired or incompetent to practice for some reason, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sixty-nine percent said they were prepared to deal with impaired colleagues and 64 percent said they were prepared to deal with incompetent colleagues.
Now the disturbing findings: Seventeen percent reported having direct personal knowledge of an impaired or incompetent physician in their hospital, group or practice in the last three years, and only 67 precent of these physicians reported that individual to a hospital, clnical, professional society or other relevant authority. The most common reasons for not reporting was the belief that someone else was taking care of the problem, that nothing would happen anyway, that it was not their responsibility, that the doctor would be punished excessively, or that they were afraid of retribution.
Based on the findings, the researchers say better regulation is needed along with better reporting systems that protect confidentiality. In an editorial accompanying the study, Matthew Wynia of the AMA's Institute for Ethics agreed the findings show that the system needs fixing.
July 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Alcohol and Drugs , Bioethics , General Health , Hospitals , The Business of Health
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