Apologizing for something can repair relationships and is considered an integral aspect of communication. However, apologies are controversial in the medical system. Physicians may want to apologize to patients who have suffered because of medical errors, but they are unable to disclose any errors to patients or their loved ones because the likelihood of providing such details could increase the chances of a medical malpractice claim.
It has been shown that physicians who apologize for mistakes could reduce the communication problems that often lead to a medical malpractice claim or some legal action from the patients. Many state governments have passed something noted as apology laws, which were created to reduce medical malpractice claims while encouraging physicians and medical practitioners to apologize and admit errors.
Benefits Of Apology Laws
California has its own version of an apology law. Apologies admit fault; disclosures state what happened factually. California views apologies as inadmissible evidence in court. However, retired Judge Quentin Kopp wrote that the California Evidence Code strongly discourages a doctor’s tendency to make an apology due to an incident caused by negligence.
While these apology laws have not yet shown their intended effect of reducing medical malpractice rates, that is most likely because apology laws simply protect the expressions of regret. Still, they do not protect against the error of disclosure. While they had good intent, apology laws do not encourage communication that improves the transparency of medical care or overall patient satisfaction and trust.
Apologies promote healing, reduce anger, and fix the damage relationships suffer. An apology must be sincere and well given for it to have positive results. There are four elements to an effective apology – acknowledge there was harm, show remorse, offer to repair damages suffered, and promise of changes to the individual’s behavior. A lousy apology makes matters worse than no apology at all.
Apologies In The Medical Field
In the medical field, injury, death, and illness are expected bad outcomes. There are several harmful patient events that could have been prevented, but they were caused by medical errors that could have been prevented. The Institute of Medicine published a report in 2000 that estimated that medical errors that could have been prevented cause as many as 98,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, which is more deaths than caused by AIDS, breast cancer, or car crashes.
Usually, when a patient is injured by a medical error, usually a medical professional wants to apologize to the patient. Many medical ethics argue in support of disclosing errors, including respect for autonomy, which supports patients having the knowledge to make their own decisions regarding medical care, which demands knowledge for events that affect their health.
Most U.S. physicians will face a medical malpractice claim at least once during their medical career. Malpractice is costly, and regardless of the outcome, a medical malpractice lawsuit can take an emotional and mental toll on a physician or medical provider. Because of the fear of a medical malpractice claim, most physicians may avoid apologizing or disclosing errors to patients or their families to avoid a lawsuit being filed against them.
While the theory may say that telling patients about errors may increase the likelihood of a lawsuit, the bad outcomes are not typically enough reason for patients to file a lawsuit. However, studies show that a medical apology could reduce the likelihood of a medical malpractice suit being filed.
Enlisting The Help Of A Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you have been injured because of the medical errors of a healthcare professional, you should enlist the guidance of a Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney. Call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., for a free initial consultation regarding your medical malpractice claim.