Radio: two-part documentary on truth-telling in cases of negligence and misadventure

Doctor – Tell Me The Truth

BBC Radio 4, Monday 20 and 27 February 2012, 20.00-20.30. I expect episode 1 will be available via the iPlayer shortly

Part 1:

Each year between 45,000 and 98,000 Americans die because of the treatment they receive in hospital. In Doctor, Tell Me The Truth, Professor James Reason discovers how encouraging doctors to admit their mistakes has improved patient safety. He hears from Rick Boothman and Darrell Campbell at the University of Michigan, the creators of a programme where doctors have to be open about their errors. They describe the previous ‘deny-and-defend’ attitude in which the hospital would stonewall any complaints made against them and contrast this with the present system in which investigations into errors can be started even before the patient comes round from their anaesthetic. We hear moving stories about face-to-face apologies from patients, doctors and lawyers.

Part 2:

In the second part of Doctor Tell Me The Truth Prof Reason asks whether the University of Michigan programme could work in the NHS. Peter Walsh from Action Against Medical Accidents tells him of cases where doctors have been prevented from admitting their mistakes at the insistence of their managers. He introduces us to ‘Robbie’s Law’, named after a boy who died as a result of medical malpractice, a piece of proposed legislation now being examined in the House of Lords which would require all NHS hospitals to adopt an open disclosure policy. Academics David Studdert and Alan Kalachian ask whether such a policy is legally enforceable or even desirable. Sir Liam Donaldson, a former Chief Medical Officer, tells us of his attempts to promote openness in the NHS and we hear from Robbie Powell’s father who tells us that his twenty year legal battle could have been avoided if the doctors had only admitted their mistakes and apologised.

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