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Responding to Adverse Outcomes – What Every Physician Should Know
Posted on: 5/16/2019
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Physicians have an ethical obligation to be honest and forthright in communicating with patients. In order to maintain trust in the physician-patient relationship and to help patients make informed treatment decisions, unanticipated outcomes – whether or not they resulted from a medical error – should be disclosed to the patient.

Unanticipated outcomes are those negative or unexpected results stemming from a diagnostic test, medical judgment or treatment, or surgical intervention – or from the failure to perform a test, treatment or intervention.

The unanticipated outcome may or may not be the result of error or negligence. Disclosure, like informed consent, is a process, not a single event or single discussion.

ISMS partnered with ISMIE Mutual to develop a medical legal guideline titled Responding to Unanticipated Outcomes.* This comprehensive resource includes guiding principles, how to discuss an adverse outcome with a patient, and a checklist of what to do in the event of an unanticipated outcome.

If you have any questions, please contact ISMS' legal department at 800-782-4767 or by email.


This ISMS medical legal guideline is a member benefit and is password protected.

If you need to request a username and password, contact online support at 888-476-7776 or onlinehelp@isms.org between 8:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. After-hours requests are answered promptly the next business day. You may also register online or retrieve your username or password.

*This guideline is for educational purposes only. 



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