First Posted at Educate the Young on 9/14/2012

David Mayer, MD – Host of Educate the Young (and on occasion regulate the old)

During our patient safety elective at the University of Illinois College of Medicine we also covered modules on Open, Honest Communication and Medical Malpractice. (The curriculum outline follows this post). I mention this topic, not only because a patient safety curriculum without education and discussion on the medical-legal relationship and the benefits of open, honest communication in healthcare would be incomplete, but because by offering this course through an online platform, it gave us the opportunity to open the curricula to students from all over the world. This is exactly what happened when we had a group of medical students from Australia take the patient safety elective with a group of UIC students. The discoveries, interactive discussions, and student learnings on disclosure and medical malpractice were fascinating from an instructor standpoint. The students shared different perspectives on open and honest communication after harm and the multiple barriers that caregivers face…but they did so based on their own national healthcare environment as well as what they had read from their research and what they had seen practiced during their clinical rotations. Through the entire week of discussions, I was reminded of some of the challenges our system here in the US holds…..


Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Identify and list the elements that a plaintiff must prove in order to succeed in a traditional medical malpractice lawsuit, with a particular understanding of the ways in which negligence or “deviation from the standard of care” can be proven in a court of law.
  2. Understand and articulate the conflicts between the objectives of the approaches to patient safety and the underlying concepts and approaches to the current medical malpractice tort system.
  3. Identify the major benefits and barriers to the disclosure of medical error to patients.

Research Questions:

  1. Identify and analyze alternative patient compensation systems beyond the traditional American tort system and address the pros and cons of each of those systems.
  2. Identify the primary barriers to the disclosure of a medical error that has caused patient harm.
  3. Regardless of the specific methodology for the compensation of patients for harm caused by preventable medical error, propose a strategy for convincing the Board of Trustees of a major health care organization to pursue a policy of “full disclosure” for medical error.


Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Define informed consent, informed choice and shared decision-making.
  2. Describe key elements and important differences between patient communication methods regarding treatment choices.
  3. Understand why open and honest communication with patients is an ethical imperative while reducing risk for future liability.

Research Questions:

  1. Define Informed consent, informed choice and shared decision-making. Describe key elements and important differences between all three.
    • What methods and tools are available today that help support shared decision-making?
    • How can caregivers ensure patients are adequately educated on different treatment options as well as risks and benefits?