In this scenario, a medical worker notices that an incorrect exam was ordered for a patient; instead of a chest procedure being conducted according to medical orders, an abdominal examination was performed. There was clearly some form of logistic mix-up because the tests ordered for two different patients were accidentally switched in this system. When this information was reported to the department head, he claimed that this matter should be kept quiet. This is an ethical issue because the patient receiving the wrong exam was a victim of malpractice and his health may have suffered; furthermore, reporting this type of problem could help prevent such mistakes in the future.
There are several solutions to this scenario. The person who noticed the mistake could agree with the department head and do nothing; however, this would be the least ethical decision. The person who noticed the mistake could report the mistake to the person who holds power directly above the department head and wait for his decision. Other possibilities include personally contacting the patient to let them know about the mistake and contacting the doctor of the patient to inform him of the error.
The best solution is to inform the patient’s doctor and ensuring that the doctor contacts the patient about this matter because this is “acting in the best interest of the patient”. This is the best solution to the dilemma because it will ensure that both the doctor and patient are aware of the mistake and it presents the best opportunity for this mistake to be corrected. If the patient has not yet suffered severe adverse effects from a missed diagnosis, the doctor will have the opportunity to order the correct test once again and examine the results. Although the person who noticed the mistake could contact the patient, it is better to inform the doctor because a more professional decision could be made on this matter. However, if the doctor agrees with the department head and fails to contact the patient, it is the responsibility of the person who noticed the mistake to find a doctor who would be willing to make the call and run the correct test on this patient.
Maestri WF. (1982). Basic Ethics for the Healthcare Professional. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.