Public Disclosure and University of Kentucky Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program
Interesting story about disclosure – or lack thereof – that has developed at University of Kentucky (UK) HealthCare over the last year. In short, UK’s Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program came under fire after patient deaths and was eventually shut down, but is now being re-started after an exhaustive internal review which developed numerous recommendations. Trouble is from the perception of the media and the public the internal review doesn’t tell anyone – including parents of pediatric patients – what was wrong in the first place. No disclosure of mistakes or shortcomings. This editorial from a local newspaper sums it up best by stating that “UK’s secrecy jeopardizes public trust.” Of course the lawyers are saying that HIPPA, peer-review protection, and fear of litigation prevent them from sharing the details – which regular readers of this space know to be lame excuses, especially on the litigation angle. Nothing stokes trial lawyers like trying to uncover secrets. The media is much the same way. This is another example of why you really need to take a good look at your lawyers when starting your disclosure program, and consider firing a few of them.
Please understand, I don’t believe most cases of medical malpractice or error should be splattered all over the media. Most patients and families don’t want or need this kind of attention. One doctor (or hospital) talking to one patient or family at a time is all the transparency most situations require. But this case is different…it is in the public eye, and the public deserves answers. Seriously, don’t the UK people remember the Tylenol deaths and how that tragedy was masterfully handled by Johnson & Johnson? Furthermore, while the current major focus in the disclosure movement is the training of front-line staff (teaching them to say “sorry”), institutions also need to be ready to do disclosure on a public stage for certain cases – or they can suffer serious reputational damage. Doing disclosure on the public stage really means you and your attorneys need to be aligned, and you need to talk about these situations with your attorneys long before they happen.