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More Times Than Not, Physicians Disregard Informing Patients About Possible Risks

Doctors continuously underestimate the need of informing their patients on  potential risks.

While many patients believe physicians always disclose all possible risks prior  to treatment, new research reveals that is not entirely true.

According to the researchers who conducted the study at the University of  Melbourne, doctors continuously underestimate the need of informing their  patients on potential risks.

Though doctors are expected to counsel patients to assist them in making  sensible choices by disclosing information that may affect treatment decision,  which could range from cost of treatment to possible side effects, the study,  led by David Studdert from the University of Melbourne, found doctors and  surgeons are usually perplexed regarding what information they should disclose  with patients prior to treatments.

The study analyzed 481 malpractice claims and patient complaints that  involved allegations of deficiencies in the process of attaining an informed  consent.

Data demonstrated about nine percent of cases studies were disputed cases,  which involved head-to-head disagreements over specific risks that patients felt  should have been disclosed. Two-thirds of disputed cases involved surgical  procedures and the rest of cases were related to unfavorable results, including  more surgery, chronic pain, impaired vision or hearing as well as poor cosmetic  outcome.

According to Studdert and his colleagues, the most common reasoning for  doctors not disclosing all possible risks were because physicians believed the  risks were too rare to occur, or the benefits greatly outweighed the risks. Some  doctors deemed it unnecessary or inappropriate to ''burden'' the patient with  information about procedures they are about to undergo. While other doctors  defended their position by arguing that the risks were obvious and a reasonable  patient should have been aware of it.

Studdert understands that occasionally doctors and patients will disagree  regarding particular risk factors, however, he believes bringing understanding  to patients helps bridge the gap. Doctors and surgeons should not assume what a  patient wants to hear or should want to hear.

The study was published in the PLOS Medicine.

Source: Medical Daily at

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