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The real impact of gag laws after a medical error

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2023 | Medication Errors

The number of lives lost yearly due to medical errors is in the tens of thousands. Some experts believe that many of these deaths could have been prevented if gag laws were eliminated. They argue that more open communication between physicians would work to the benefit of both doctors and patients alike in California.

Doctors can’t share information freely

The forced silence after a medical error is the cause of a variety of problems in the health care system. With the way gag laws currently operate in most states, doctors cannot learn from each other and their mistakes or close calls. It creates a communication breakdown that puts future patients at risk because providers keep making the same mistakes.

Because gag laws leave providers with no one to speak to openly about the error, they often have no means of reaching out for support. This makes it all the easier for these professionals to fall into depression or anxiety. The suicide rate among physicians is two times the national average, underlining the need for change in how medical errors are handled.

Families aren’t given closure

Physicians also have no opportunity to atone or apologize to the family of the patient, which can lead to guilt and make it hard to continue working in medicine. On the other side, these families aren’t given any answers in the aftermath of the mistake. Because they’re left in the dark, the family might feel betrayed by the medical system and lose faith in it entirely.

The current state of gag laws generally leaves physicians fearful and unsure of what they can share – and with whom. The answer is usually simple: very little or nothing at all. Otherwise, the physician may risk losing their license, and it could even mean an end to their profession and income.