Current Oncology Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 253–260 | Cite as

How to Discuss Errors and Adverse Events with Cancer Patients

  • Iain E. Yardley
  • Sarah J. Yardley
  • Albert W. Wu


Medical error has been increasingly recognized as a source of harm. The risk of harm can be even greater in cancer care with its potentially life-limiting disease and toxic treatments. When errors and adverse events occur, patients have a right to be informed and consistently report a desire to know about events in their care. Disclosure of errors is difficult for physicians for several reasons, including guilt and shame, the fear of litigation, concerns about the impact on the physician–patient relationship, and concerns about the impact on their personal reputation. Despite these difficulties, the experience of disclosure of medical error to date has shown that it can strengthen relationships, reduce litigation and the associated costs, and be beneficial to both the patient and physician. Disclosure can be approached in many of the same ways as any other difficult communication situations, with training and preparation helping to improve the process.


Medical errors Adverse event Disclosure Apology Communication Patient safety Iatrogenic disease Oncology Cancer Neoplasms Palliative care 



No potential conflicts of interest relevant to this article were reported.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iain E. Yardley
    • 1
  • Sarah J. Yardley
    • 2
  • Albert W. Wu
    • 3
  1. 1.WHO Office for Patient SafetyLondonUK
  2. 2.North Western DeaneryManchesterUK
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthHealth Services Research & Development CenterBaltimoreUSA

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