The Practical Lawyer, December 2011
17 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 30, 2011
A Prompt Apology by a physician has been shown to reduce the financial consequences of an adverse medical outcome. However, is an expression of empathy admissible in a malpractice lawsuit? What about a doctor’s statement pertaining to a medical error, such as “It is my fault” or “I made a mistake”? Thirty-five jurisdictions including the District of Columbia have enacted laws to encourage heath care professionals to apologize for adverse medical outcomes without these expressions of regret constituting an admission of liability. Apology laws vary by jurisdiction with some states precluding an admission of a medical mistake while others limiting the disclosure to an expression of sympathy. Many legislative pronouncements restrict the disclosure to the patient and immediate family members while others include the person’s friends and legal representative. One statute even includes a domestic partner. This article will discuss physician apologies as a way to reduce malpractice claims while providing an overview of the evidential laws on the issue.
Keywords: physician apologies
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