Timothy McDonald, MD, attorney, and chief safety and risk officer for health affairs at the University of Illinois Medical Center, will deliver the keynote address at the 2008 American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) International Respiratory Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center on in Anaheim, Calif. McDonald will give his address, "The Legal and Ethical Pitfalls in Respiratory Care," on Saturday, December 13 at 10:15 a.m.

McDonald will address  the legal and ethical issues facing respiratory therapists (RTs) when they make a mistake while treating a patient. McDonald gives the same advice to RTs and physicians: With the context of a clear process of reporting and investigating adverse outcomes, RTs should be empowered to admit and discuss their mistakes with colleagues and patients, to apologize, and do everything possible to correct the problem as it occurs.

"This is not a recommendation most malpractice attorneys would support, but it has proven to be the right and smart thing to do for both physicians and patients," says McDonald. "Patients want and deserve to be treated honestly and fairly. With the context of an appropriate process, once a physician, respiratory therapist, or any medical professional takes responsibility for an error and then works to correct that error, the likelihood of a lawsuit significantly diminishes. It’s the right thing to do."