Rationale, aims and objectives This study aims to provide in-depth insight into the emotions and thoughts of physicians towards malpractice litigation, and how these relate to their incident disclosure behaviour. Methods Thirty-one Dutch physicians were interviewed and completed short questionnaires regarding malpractice litigation. We used hierarchical cluster analysis to identify physician clusters. Additional qualitative data were analysed. Results Physicians vary largely in their attitude towards malpractice litigation, and their attitude is not straightforward related to their disclosure behaviour. Based on their responses physicians could be divided into two clusters: one with a positive and one with a negative attitude. Physicians with a negative attitude showed often, but also 6 out of 15 not, a reluctance to disclose, whereas the majority in the positive attitude cluster (12 out of 16) showed no reluctance. If, what and how physicians disclose incidents depends on a complex interplay of their emotions and thoughts regarding litigation, and not only on their fear of litigation as many studies assume. Conclusions Due to the variation among physicians in their litigation attitude and behaviour in terms of incident disclosure the oft-heard call for ‘openness’ about medical incidents will not be easy to achieve. A coaching system in which physicians can share and discuss their differing attitudes and disclosure principles, teaching medical students and junior physicians about disclosure, and explaining how to organize emotional and legal support for oneself in case of litigation could decrease stress feelings and support open disclosure behaviour.

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doi.org/10.1111/jep.12194, hdl.handle.net/1765/129066
Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice (Print)
Health Services Management & Organisation (HSMO)

Renkema, H., Broekhuis, H., & Ahaus, K. (2014). Explaining the unexplainable - the impact of physicians' attitude towards litigation on their incident disclosure behavior. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice (Print), 20(5), 649–656. doi:10.1111/jep.12194