Publication of information about medical errors is critical to error prevention and shared learning among health professionals and institutions. While some countries have error reporting systems in place, journal publications are still essential reference tools for learning about error, and editorial policies about when to publish errors are needed, as these provide important guidance to journal editorial boards.

While there is a prima facie moral requirement to obtain consent to publish patient information, publication without patient consent may be justified if certain criteria are met. Justification will involve consideration of a variety of principles, rules and conditions grounded in ethics, law and policy. Except in exceptional circumstances of overriding importance to public health, a patient's personal information should not be published over the patient's refusal. But what constitutes "exceptional circumstances of overriding importance to public health"? We argue that medical error is one such circumstance and present an argument in favour of a specific policy stance on publication of medical errors.


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    Healthcare Quarterly, 8(4) October 2005

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