If a doctor knew that a colleague was incompetent, drunk or high on drugs, would the doctor turn the colleague in? A new survey has some disturbing answers to that question.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of 2,938 doctors practicing in the United States in 2009 in anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics and psychiatry.
The good news is that 64 percent agreed they had a professional obligation to report colleagues who were significantly impaired or for some reason incompetent to practice, according to a report in the July 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Now the disturbing findings: Seventeen percent reported having direct personal knowledge of an impaired or incompetent physician in their hospital, group or practice in the past three years, and only 67 percent of these physicians reported that individual to a hospital, clinic, professional society or other relevant authority. The most common reasons for not reporting were the belief that someone else was taking care of the problem, that nothing would happen anyway, that it was not their responsibility, that the doctor would be punished excessively, or that they were afraid of retribution.