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Open disclosure: ethical, professional and legal obligations, and the way forward for regulation

Open disclosure (OD) is the process of “open discussion of incidents that result in harm to a patient while receiving health care”.1 OD requires doctors to inform patients that an adverse event has occurred. As additional information surrounding the event is gathered, the patient is notified of the probable long-term outcomes and informed of how the system is being modified to prevent recurrence.2,3 Thus, the formal process of OD involves the following elements:1

  • notification to a patient and/or his or her legal representative about what has occurred;

  • apology or expression of regret;

  • factual explanation of what happened;

  • indication of potential long-term outcomes for the patient; and

  • systemic changes being made to prevent recurrence.

OD should be implemented…