Nondisclosure Agreements in Medical Malpractice Settlements May Limit Transparency

William M. Sage MD JD James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence School of Law The University of TexasMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
William M. Sage MD JD
James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence
School of Law
The University of Texas

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We reviewed settlement agreements in malpractice claims closed by The University of Texas System as part of a larger study on incorporating patient perspectives into safety improvement funded by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. Over the five years studied, we found that 88.7% of the 124 settlement agreements that met our study criteria contained non-disclosure provisions, but with little standardization or consistency. Restrictions on disclosure, which selectively burdened patients and their families, seemed broader than needed to protect health care providers from disparagement or to avoid attracting additional litigation. Medical malpractice could happen to anyone at any time during your visit to your hospital. If you or a member of your family have been the victim of medical palpractice you might want to look into getting help from someone like this Tate Law Offices Ft. Worth Personal Injury Law Firm or a law firm that is local to you that might be able to help with your case.

Nearly half of the agreements (46.4%) prohibited disclosure of the underlying facts, which may be inconsistent with emerging principles of patient safety and compassionate care, and 26.4% prohibited reporting to regulatory bodies, a restriction that the health system subsequently eliminated in response to our findings. Settlements reached after tort reform took full effect in Texas had stricter non-disclosure provisions than earlier settlements, suggesting greater leverage by defendants notwithstanding the reduced risk of additional litigation.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Silence and secrecy around medical error can persist even in a well-intentioned academic health system that faces little litigation risk and generally attempts to treat patients fairly and transparently. The findings are important because they remind us how concerned professionals can be about reputation and how uncomfortable publicity can make them, even when science and ethics have advanced to favor greater information exchange.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Many health care organizations are implementing ‚Äúcommunication and resolution‚ÄĚ programs involving medical injuries. These programs include vigilant detection of errors, full disclosure to patients and families, timely redress of injuries, and detailed feedback to improve patient safety. Based on our study, biases and habits involving settlement need to be re-examined in these and other settings, and best practices developed and disseminated.

Citation:

[wysija_form id=”3″]

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:, & William M. Sage MD JD (2015). Nondisclosure Agreements in Medical Malpractice Settlements May Limit Transparency

Last Updated on May 11, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD