Is "I'm Sorry" Enough?

Is "I'm Sorry" Enough?

By: Taryn Kadar

Thirty-six states have “apology laws” which prevent a physician’s apology to a patient to be used against him or her in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Georgia already has such a law on the books (O.C.G.A. § 24-4-416).

Legal experts debate the need for such a law. A plaintiff’s attorney may not want a doctor’s apology to come in as evidence to avoid humanizing the defendant to a jury, or many argue that plaintiff attorneys take cases where the monetary damages are significant, and those lawsuits are not likely to be diffused by an apology. Others, however, believe in the power of forgiveness, and that apologizing early for medical errors coupled with an offer of compensation can reduce costly and timely litigation for everyone involved. The University of Michigan Health System adopted a program in 2001 which encourages physicians to apologize to patients for negligent care. This program has significantly reduced the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed.
There have been lively discussions regarding “apology laws.” Does it help or hurt the litigation process? Does it provide too much protection for physicians or not enough? Does it provide for more open communication between a patient and a physician after a medical error? What do you think?

As always, when dealing with disclosure laws, please consult a lawyer who is familiar with the state’s law to help determine what is and is not admissible in a lawsuit.

comments powered by Disqus