Tags: doctor | treatment | risk

Doctors Often Don't Stress Treatment Risks

Friday, 10 Aug 2012 10:57 AM


Many doctors fail to disclose the potential risks posed by treatment options they recommend to patients because they underestimate the potential for harm or are uncertain about what they should reveal, new research suggests.
The study, led by Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne and involving an international team of health experts, is based on an analysis of more than 480 malpractice claims and patient complaints. The team determined many doctors – especially surgeons – are often unsure which clinical risks they should disclose and discuss with patients before treatment. As a result, they don’t present the information.
The analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, found most patient informed consent disputes “involve disagreements about who said what and when, not stand-offs over whether a particular risk ought to have been disclosed." But the researchers added that doctors may "routinely underestimate the importance of a small set of risks that vex patients."
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For the study, researchers analyzed 481 malpractice claims and patient complaints from Australia involving allegations of deficiencies in the process of obtaining informed consent. They found that 45 (9 percent) of the cases involved head-to-head disagreements over whether a particular risk ought to have been disclosed before treatment. Two-thirds of these cases involved surgical procedures, and the majority had quality-of-life implications for patients, including chronic pain and the need for re-operation.
According to the results, the most common reasons doctors gave for not telling patients about particular risks before treatment were that they considered such risks too rare to warrant discussion or the specific risk was covered by a more general risk that was discussed.
"Our findings suggest that doctors may systematically underestimate the premium patients place on understanding certain risks in advance of treatment," the researchers concluded. "Improved understanding of these situations helps to spotlight gaps between what patients want to hear and what doctors perceive patients want – or should want – to hear. It may also be useful information for doctors eager to avoid medico-legal disputes."
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Many doctors fail to disclose treatment risks because they underestimate the potential for harm.
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2012-57-10
Friday, 10 Aug 2012 10:57 AM
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