An Apology Can Avoid Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

side note: The article linked below deals with the founder of The Sorry Works! Coalition, which is an advocacy organization that promotes disclosure, apology (when appropriate) and upfront compensation (when necessary) after adverse medical events as a means to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits.

The idea of an honest apology after an adverse medical event as a means of diffusing a situation and possibly avoiding a lawsuit is nothing new. The power of an apology in medicine has been a long debated topic with professionals falling on both sides of the argument. Currently, there are 29 states with Apology Laws that allow healthcare professionals to apologize for adverse outcomes without the statement being admissible as a declaration of fault in a medical malpractice lawsuits.

Historically, healthcare professionals have been advised, and sometimes required, to remain silent after an adverse outcome because an apology in which the physician admits fault is considered an “admission against interest” and, as such, may be admissible in a malpractice proceeding as evidence of acknowledgment of fault.

Proponents of apology in medicine argue that it enables candid communication between physician and patient following an unanticipated medical outcome and appear to reduce overall medical malpractice liability costs by reducing the number of lawsuits and consequent attorney fees and claim costs. Research also shows that physician apology laws encourage effective assessment, thereby improving opportunities to prevent future adverse events.

An apology following an adverse medical event can go a long way in avoiding a medical malpractice lawsuit, but it is imperative that you check with your state, medical malpractice insurer and the hospital where you have privileges to see if an apology is admissible as a declaration of fault in medical malpractice lawsuits.

There have been a number of books published on the power of apology in medicine. One such book is “Healing Words” by Michael Woods, MD, which can be purchased here.

“Sorry Works!” is a program developed and promoted by Metro East gadfly Doug Wojcieszak, ostensibly to address the medical malpractice liability crisis.

continue reading about apology program