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Disclosure of Harmful Medical Error to Patients: A Review With Recommendations for Pathologists

Heher, Yael, K., MD, MPH, FRCPC*,†,‡; Dintzis, Suzanne, M., MD, PhD*,†,‡


In the March issue of Advances in Anatomic Pathology , the authors’ institutional affiliations on page 124 are incorrect. Both authors are listed as faculty at both Harvard Medical School and the University of Washington Medical Center.

Dr Heher is at Harvard Medical School. Dr Dintzis is at the University of Washington Medical Center. 1

Advances in Anatomic Pathology. 25(4):291, July 2018.

Advances In Anatomic Pathology: March 2018 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 124–130
doi: 10.1097/PAP.0000000000000181
Review Articles

Harmful error is an infrequent but serious challenge in the pathology laboratory. Regulatory bodies and advocacy groups have mandated and encouraged disclosure of error to patients. Many pathologists are interested in participating in disclosure of harmful error but are ill-equipped to do so. This review of the literature with recommendations examines the current state of the patient safety movement and error disclosure as it pertains to pathology and provides a practical and explicit guide for pathologists for who, when, and how to disclose harmful pathology error to patients. The authors provide a definition of harmful pathology error, and the rationale and principles behind effective disclosure are discussed. The changing culture of medicine and its effect on pathology is examined including the trend towards increasing transparency and patient engagement. Related topics are addressed including the management of expected adverse events, barriers to disclosure, and additional resources for the implementation of disclosure programs in pathology.

*Department of Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Harvard Medical School

University of Washington Medical Center

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Reprints: Yael K. Heher, MD, MPH, FRCPC, Quality and Safety, Department of Pathology FN201, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 (e-mail:

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