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Disclosure of Diagnostic Errors: the Death Knell of Retrospective Pathology Reviews?

Colgan, Terence J MD

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: October 2005 - Volume 9 - Issue 4 - p 216-218
doi: 10.1097/01.lgt.0000179860.67574.22

Full disclosure of medical errors to patients is now widely seen as an essential component of error management, although its update into daily clinical practice is variable. Laboratory diagnostic errors are discovered in retrospective reviews of previous surgical and cytopathology cases. This quality assurance practice is a valuable tool of practice audit and change for both cytotechnologists and pathologists. Presently, these diagnostic errors are only reported to the clinician and patient if the new finding affects current patient management. Mandatory full disclosure of all diagnostic errors discovered in the retrospective review process would have a significant adverse impact on cytotechnologists, pathologists, the laboratory, the clinic, the institution, and insurers. Retrospective pathology review would become so burdensome that its survival would be in jeopardy-unless measures are undertaken to ameliorate the anticipated adverse consequences.

Any policy of full disclosure of diagnostic pathology errors to patients will adversely impact retrospective pathology review and quality assurance programs-unless it is implemented with prudent safeguards.

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Reprint requests to: Terence J. Colgan, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Room 600, 600 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 1X5. E-mail:

©2005The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology