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Improving patient communication through the duty of candour and shared decision-making

21 July 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 14


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on the duty of candour and shared decision-making

Many lawyers in healthcare law strongly argue that if nurses and doctors improved their communication practices between each other and with the patient then there would be less litigation and fewer complaints. The cases involving communication failures are various and can have fatal consequences (as we see in the reports of Never Events).

A patient who has suffered an avoidable adverse healthcare outcome may also resort to seeking legal advice or to making a formal complaint because they have been spoken to in a poor manner by a nurse or doctor. A condescending or evasive tone may have been used and the patient now feels that the only remaining course of action is to seek out legal help in finding out what went wrong with their treatment and care. Often all that patients want is an explanation of what occurred, an apology and an assurance that what happened to them will not happen to anybody else. These patient sentiments have been referred to by many legal and patient safety commentators over the years.

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