Preferences and Perceptions of Medical Error Disclosure Among Marginalized Populations: A Narrative Review


      Disclosure of medical errors, in which a health care provider informs the patient/family of the error and takes responsibility, is an ethical imperative. Little is known about how medical error disclosure preferences or perceptions may vary for patients who are people of color, are older, or have lower educational attainment.


      The researchers conducted a narrative review on medical errors and disclosure. Included were studies in high-income countries that included a predominantly marginalized population, defined by any one of the following: older age adults (mean age > 65 years); low educational attainment (> 55% of participants with less than a high school education); and/or racial/ethnic minority (< 55% of participants identifying as non-Hispanic white for US studies).


      The literature search yielded 3,050 articles, resulting in 6 studies included for analysis. Four studies used hypothetical vignettes; 1 used focus groups, and 1 used a survey. Three studies met the marginalized population criteria based on education; 3 met the criteria based on race/ethnicity. No study met the inclusion criteria for age. All 6 articles examined patient preferences for disclosure, and 2 studies also examined patient perceptions of disclosure. Overall, participants preferred that medical errors be disclosed to them. Most of the studies lacked multiple regression analysis to investigate differences in disclosure preferences by race/ethnicity, age, and education.


      Participants from marginalized populations may have similar disclosure preferences to white and highly educated participants. Future studies should aim to examine differences in error disclosure preferences among patients who have experienced adverse events across race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and age.
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