Open culture is all about allowing knowledge to be spread freely.  In its applications towards medical practice it is likely a chance to share with those who need to know just how serious or benign their conditions are, as well as those close to them. But the inherent danger in keeping such information open to all is that it not only violates the privacy of the patient, but also opens up the hospital and any employee that has anything to do with the patient to a potential lawsuit (O’Reilly, 2012).  The mishandling of medical information can lead to potential disaster for the patient as well as the medical staff.

There is in fact an advantage to being transparent concerning health concerns, as it can help the patient should any mistakes occur on the part of the medical staff (Madden & Cockburn, 2012). It was believed for a great deal of time that openly disclosing any mistakes on the part of the doctors, nurses, or anyone who had anything to do with a patient’s treatment might open the hospital up to lawsuits for which they were entirely liable (Chen, 2010).  Fortunately however it has been seen in the past decade that fewer lawsuits have followed open disclosure, as patients and families are far more grateful for the information given.

In fact not offering full disclosure in the face of mistakes made on the part of the medical staff is more likely to be a liability now than open disclosure.  The mistakes made by doctors and those around them are to be expected every so often as this is the nature of humanity. But owning up to such mistakes is not only ethical, it is capable of alerting patients to serious health conditions that might turn worse if not reviewed and remedied in time (Kapp, 1997).  In order to best serve a patient it is important to keep them abreast of every last bit of information that is needed so as to keep them aware and informed and keep the staff protected from any and all liability that might arise.


Chen, P. M.D. (2010). When Doctors Admit Their Mistakes. The New York Times.

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Kapp, M.B. JD, MPH. (1997). Legal Anxieties and Medical Mistakes. Journal of General

Internal Medicine, 12(12): 787-788.

Madden B. & Cockburn T. (2012). Open disclosure: why doctors should be honest about errors.

The Conversation. Retrieved from

O’Reilly, K.B. (2012). Fear of punitive response to hospital errors lingers.

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