When Doctors Admit Mistakes, Fewer Malpractice Suits Result, Study Says

Side Note: this article reports on a new study that examined the merit of apologizing for errors in medicine.  Its finding were consistent with previous research – admitting fault for a medical mistake, apologizing, and offering a fair settlement can help reduce legal costs and cut down on claims.  Good communication with patients is an essential physician risk management tool, and this includes apologizing for a mistake.  While apology can have beneficial effects on the malpractice system, it can not fix a broken system by itself.  Equally important are legal reforms like changes in limits on pain and suffering and statutes of limitations.

by Jennifer Goodwin
Business Week

TUESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) — When doctors make mistakes, admitting the error, saying “I’m sorry” and offering compensation may go a long way toward preventing malpractice lawsuits, new research shows.

In 2001, University of Michigan Health System launched a program encouraging health workers to report medical mistakes. The program included a procedure for telling patients and their families about errors; explaining who made the error, how it occurred and what steps were taken to prevent a similar mistake in the future; making a sincere apology to the patient or their family; and offering fair compensation for harm when at fault.

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