The Doctor Has Apologised. Will I Now Get Compensation for My Injuries? Myth and Reality in Apologies and Liability

14 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2017

See all articles by Andrea Zwart-Hink

Andrea Zwart-Hink

VU University Amsterdam - Faculty of Law; VU University Amsterdam - Amsterdam Centre for Comprehensive Law; VU University Amsterdam

Date Written: August 30, 2017


English Abstract: Although in the Netherlands, like in many other jurisdictions, healthcare providers are expected to be open and honest to their patients and to apologise for any medical mistakes, in practice they are still not always completely open about mistakes that have been made. It is often assumed that healthcare providers’ liability insurers do not allow them to apologise, and indeed that making certain statements, such as offering apologies, can constitute an admission of liability. This assumption is one of the reasons why literature has suggested that it is sensible, from a legal perspective, to exercise caution when offering apologies. This paper argues that this suggestion is both socially undesirable and not substantiated in law.

Spanish Abstract: Aunque se supone que en los Países Bajos, como en muchas otras jurisdicciones, los profesionales de la salud deben ser transparentes y honestos con sus pacientes, y disculparse por cualquier error médico, en la práctica todavía no son siempre completamente transparentes con sus errores. A menudo se asume que las aseguradoras de responsabilidad médica no les permiten disculparse, y que realmente realizar algunas afirmaciones, como pedir disculpas, puede constituir una admisión de responsabilidad. Esta asunción es una de las razones por las que la literatura ha sugerido que es sensato, desde una perspectiva legal, ser cauteloso al ofrecer disculpas. Este artículo defiende que esta sugerencia es indeseable desde el punto de vista social, y tampoco se sustenta en el derecho.

Keywords: Apologies, admitting liability, professional liability, insurance cover, Disculpas, admisión de responsabilidad, responsabilidad profesional, cobertura de seguro

Suggested Citation

Zwart-Hink, Andrea, The Doctor Has Apologised. Will I Now Get Compensation for My Injuries? Myth and Reality in Apologies and Liability (August 30, 2017). Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2017, Available at SSRN:

Andrea Zwart-Hink (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

VU University Amsterdam - Amsterdam Centre for Comprehensive Law ( email )

Faculty of Law, Initium Building
De Boelelaan 1077
Amsterdam, 1081HV

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV

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