Ethical Considerations on Disclosure When Medical Error Is Discovered during Medicolegal Death Investigation

Dwayne Wolf, Stacy A. Drake, Francine K. Snow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the course of fulfilling their statutory role, physicians performing medicolegal investigations may recognize clinical colleagues' medical errors. If the error is found to have led directly to the patient's death (missed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis, for example), then the forensic pathologist has a professional responsibility to include the information in the autopsy report and make sure that the family is appropriately informed. When the error is significant but did not lead directly to the patient's demise, ethical questions may arise regarding the obligations of the medical examiner to disclose the error to the clinicians or to the family. This case depicts the discovery of medical error likely unrelated to the cause of death and describes one possible ethical approach to disclosure derived from an ethical reasoning model addressing ethical principles of respect for persons/autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-297
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Keywords

  • ethics of disclosure
  • medical error
  • medicolegal death investigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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