A serious medical mistake by a Harrisburg physician typically makes headlines when the victim or their family files a malpractice lawsuit. And rightfully so; the public needs to know when a local doctor has been accused of negligence.

But so-called “near misses” are much more common than medical errors that harm the patient. Affected patients may never find out that they were nearly the victim of medical malpractice. And doctors are very reluctant to admit when they have made a mistake, according to a physician who has written a book on the subject.

Why doctors keep their near misses a secret

In an interview on NPR, the doctor recalled a near-miss case of her own from when she was first starting out in medicine. The patient was unaffected by the mistake, but the physician said she was “in a fog” mentally for weeks afterward. She felt too guilty and ashamed to report what she had done, and because the patient was not harmed, nobody else ever reported her negligence.

The doctor believes that shame prevents many other doctors from admitting when they make a mistake, even near misses. Therefore, the medical industry does not learn from its mistakes. Instead, it keeps repeating them, which causes medical malpractice incidents to happen regularly, she argues.

What can I do to avoid malpractice?

For patients concerned that they might not get the best care from their physician, the author suggests asking as many questions as you can, or having a loved one in the exam room to do it for you. Take notes of the doctor’s answers.

In a sense, patients who experience near misses are lucky. Despite the negligence of a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional, they suffered no ill effects. It is when malpractice leads to injury that may need to take legal action to get fair compensation. Talk to a medical malpractice attorney for more information.