When doctors lie to protect other doctors
Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC
When Doctors Hide the Truth
While it’s great that doctors have a support system of fellow physicians, there are cases in which being supportive crosses the line into covering up evidence of another physician’s mistakes
No matter what industry they work in, most people feel a sense of camaraderie with their co-workers. It’s normal to connect with others with similar educational backgrounds and career paths. This is often true with physicians, who spend many years training in medical school and residency programs. Many doctors also work long hours. Additionally, medicine is one of the most high-stress occupations in the country. It’s natural that they often identify most closely with their fellow colleagues.
This sense of community is common in other industries that feature stressful working conditions. Whether you work in a hospital, factory, or police force, the people most likely to understand the ups and downs of your job are the folks around you. Call it a “brotherhood,” “sisterhood,” or “village,” finding like-minded friends and co-workers can make a tough job more bearable.
While it’s great that doctors have a support system of fellow physicians, there are cases in which being supportive crosses the line into covering up evidence of another physician’s mistakes. When doctors fail to speak up when they observe another doctor engaging in medical malpractice, or they actively help a colleague cover up errors, they can cause a patient to experience additional injuries.
Doctors Covering Up Evidence of Medical Malpractice
In a disturbing case reported by NPR, a doctor who is now retired admitted that he lied under oath in a medical practice case in which a doctor from his own practice was accused of making a medical error. The physician who lied had been called to vouch for the skill and expertise of his partner, whose patient had experienced a stroke during surgery and was left with a permanent disability because of it. The doctor’s colleague was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The doctor who lied published an essay in a patient safety Facebook group, stating, “From that very moment I knew I had lied — lied under oath — and violated all my pledges of professionalism that came with the Doctor of Medicine degree and membership in the [American Medical Association].”
As NPR states, research from ProPublica reveals that “many physicians do not have a favorable view of informing patients about mistakes” and that health care workers are afraid to speak up when things don’t seem right. Moreover, “many doctors and nurses have told ProPublica that they fear retaliation if they speak out about patient safety problems.”
Doctors Aren’t Surprised That Fellow Doctors Lie
In a separate survey conducted by Medscape, doctors were asked if they were surprised to hear that a physician had lied to protect another physician. Out of 4,100 respondents, a staggering 81 percent said they were not surprised. As one psychiatrist put it, “This is not at all surprising. It’s just another example of tribalism, whether it’s lying to protect your family or your profession, or merely self-preservation.”
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.