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Check-up for doctors accused of malpractice

The government wants to reduce the risk of human error Keystone

The Federal Health Office says it expects a new law to be approved by the end of the year forcing doctors and hospitals to report cases of medical malpractice.

This content was published on March 6, 2005 - 16:02

It is estimated that mistakes are responsible for up to 3,000 deaths a year in Switzerland.

According to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, the government wants to act quickly in order to have a law approved by parliament by the end of the year.

"It’s our intention that hospitals will be obliged by law to report each case of malpractice to the authorities," said Manfred Langenegger of the Federal Health Office.

Health officials say that many Swiss hospitals and clinics have no system to deal with incidents of malpractice, and those that have are not linked to each other.

By introducing a critical incident reporting system at the national level, the health office wants the medical profession to learn from its mistakes, instead of covering them up.

The alarming number of fatalities put down to medical malpractice caused a public outcry last year when the death of a heart-transplant patient became the focus of a series of high-profile reports on Swiss television.

Human error

Zurich University Hospital admitted that human error was to blame for giving the woman in question a heart incompatible with her blood type.

Experts believe that poor communication is to blame for the lion’s share of errors.

"Our aim is not to point fingers or publish a list of hospitals [where cases are reported], but to start a dialogue with doctors and medical personnel in order to learn from the mistakes," said Langenegger.

He added that health services could follow the lead of the aviation industry, where every incident is analysed in detail.

The task of following up cases of malpractice could be given to the Patient Safety Foundation, which was set up by the government and medical professions at the end of 2003.

The foundation has said that up to 16 per cent of patients are the victims of medical errors.

swissinfo

Key facts

The Swiss Social Insurance Office says up to 3,000 deaths a year are caused by medical malpractice.
Swiss hospitals treat at least 1.4 million medical cases a year.
The Federal Health Office wants doctors and hospitals to be required by law to report cases of malpractice.

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