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Medical error disclosure: from the therapeutic alliance to risk management: the vision of the new Italian code of medical ethics

Emanuela Turillazzi* and Margherita Neri

Author Affiliations

Department of Legal Medicine, University of Foggia, Via degli Aviatori, 1, 71100 Foggia, Italy

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:57  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-57

Published: 15 July 2014



The Italian code of medical deontology recently approved stipulates that physicians have the duty to inform the patient of each unwanted event and its causes, and to identify, report and evaluate adverse events and errors. Thus the obligation to supply information continues to widen, in some way extending beyond the doctor-patient relationship to become an essential tool for improving the quality of professional services.


The new deontological precepts intersect two areas in which the figure of the physician is paramount. On the one hand is the need for maximum integrity towards the patient, in the name of the doctor’s own, and the other’s (the patient’s) dignity and liberty; on the other is the physician’s developing role in the strategies of the health system to achieve efficacy, quality, reliability and efficiency, to reduce errors and adverse events and to manage clinical risk.


In Italy, due to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and to the new code of medical deontology, the role of physicians becomes a part of a complex strategy of risk management based on a system focused approach in which increasing transparency regarding adverse outcomes and full disclosure of health- related negative events represent a key factor.

Duty of information; Error disclosure; Italian code of medical ethics; Patients’ safety; Risk management