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New ruling on adverse events disclosure

Within the medical community, an error is often referrred to as an adverse event. New York residents who may have family members in New Jersey or who may themselves seek medical care in New Jersey should know that 14 years ago the state passed a law that is called the Patient Safety Act of 2004. This law related specifically to communication about these adverse events between physicians and patients.

In brief, the law was designed to promote open conversations between providers and patients about errors with the ultimate objective to prevent additional mistakes in the future as reported by NJ.com. The law, however, also stipulated that any documentation about these conversations or the conversations themselves would remain confidential. This is said to have been an effort to promote a willingness to openly discuss and investigate errors on the part of doctors, hospitals and other facilities.

Over the years it has appeared that the stipulations surrounding the confidentiality of these conversations has been used by health care providers to avoid fully disclosing information to patients. A medical malpractice suit in progress currently pushed to challenge this after finding tidbits of new information among more than 4,000 pages of patient records. The patient had never been informed about a gap in the administration of medication to her while she was in the hospital.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has now ruled that health care professionals and facilities must provide documentation of adverse events to patients. The hope is that with this ruling, more patients will be properly informed when a medical error has occurred.

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