- A physician shall uphold the standards of professionalism…
- A physician shall respect the law…
- A physician shall respect the rights of patients…
So begin three of the American Medical Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics.
Doctors are among the most respected and the most trusted members of society. As patients and fellow citizens, we expect doctors to do the right thing, to admit to any mistakes they may make, and to protect the rights of people with injuries or illnesses.
But This Doesn’t Always Happen
Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on a doctor to tell the truth. Whether it is a doctor who is treating you or a doctor who is offering an opinion on your medical care, it is important to know that doctors face many barriers to telling the truth. Specifically, it can be difficult for a doctor to tell the truth because some doctors:
- Are under pressure to support their colleagues. The culture among physicians is to support each other. Nobody wants one mistake to threaten the career of a friend or colleague, and thus some doctors cover for others. However, medical malpractice is not simply an error, nor is it just a bad day at the office. Instead, it is the failure to provide reasonable care to a patient who is hurt or killed as a result.
- View medical malpractice cases as threats. Some doctors do not trust the courts to resolve medical malpractice cases; thus, they are not fully compliant during a medical malpractice case.
- Are fearful of what will happen if they tell the truth. Some doctors are afraid that their own careers will suffer if they speak up about a colleague’s mistakes. They are afraid that they will not be able to work in their chosen field any longer.
- Have employment contracts that require them to be loyal to their employers. Employment contracts may require loyalty to the medical practice or health care organization that owns the practice. However, employment contracts do not require doctors to lie. While it may be a misinterpretation of the contract to understand it as requiring a doctor to lie, telling the truth may have real consequences that hurt the doctor’s employability.
These barriers to telling the truth are real and they are significant, but they are not excuses. Doctors have an ethical responsibility to tell the truth and a legal responsibility to tell the truth while under oath. When doctors lie they may cause further harm to patients who have already been hurt.
Some Doctors Regret Their Choices
In September 2016, a South Dakota surgeon, Dr. Lars Aanning, admitted to lying under oath in a medical malpractice case against his medical partner almost twenty years earlier. Dr. Aanning now says that he knew his partner’s work had been “substandard” but when asked on the witness stand if his partner’s work was substandard, he replied, “No, never.” Dr. Aanning says he can come forward now that is retired and that he has spoken up to show why you can’t always rely on a doctor’s testimony—even under oath.
Dr. Aanning is not alone.
What You Can Do About This Problem If You’ve Been Hurt?
Medicine can’t regulate itself, and currently there are no strong regulations in place to encourage doctors to admit fault and apologize for their own mistakes or to testify against other doctors who have made mistakes.
If you’ve been hurt or a loved one has been killed by medical malpractice, then you need the doctor who committed the malpractice to tell the truth about the error or you need another doctor to testify truthfully against the doctor who made the mistake. If a doctor decides to lie under oath, or commit perjury, then there is little that you can do about it without the help of an experienced attorney who can:
- Find the right expert witnesses who are committed to telling the truth.
- Present compelling evidence.
- Hold doctors accountable through the legal system.
Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death each year in the United States, according to research published in BMJ in May 2016. Medical errors kill more people than accidents, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, or diabetes. Yet doctors are not owning up to these mistakes or compensating the victims’ families.
You may be able help change this problem by standing up for what’s right—and our attorneys and staff nurse may be able help you. Please call us anytime, day or night, at 888-450-4456 to schedule your free and confidential consultation with us and to learn more about what you might recover in a medical malpractice case.