We teach our kids that they should say sorry when they hurt someone, or when someone is injured in the course of an accident. The same should apply to physicians who want to give alternative recommendations or express their sympathies when medical procedures go awry or don’t go as planned.
The Massachusetts legislature has adopted this sentiment, and the state’s apology laws that encourage physicians to express regret and sympathy when patients are injured due to medical errors. Aside from giving an avenue to humanize doctors, it also appears that apologies may help to resolve medical malpractice cases.
After all, it is not uncommon for patients to sue out of anger because of stoic responses from doctors when procedures go awry. Naturally, some doctors are genuinely sorry about their missteps, but they should be held accountable for protocol lapses that harm patients.
An American Urological Association study found that the mean litigation length of medical malpractice cases was just over three years in states that had apology laws compared to 5.6 years in states without such laws. The goal behind these laws is to encourage apologies without the threat of litigation.
As of 2015, 38 states have now enacted such statutes. A number of states, including New York, are still considering such legislation. But ultimately an apology does not remedy an injured patient’s conditions, especially in light of preventable mistakes that led to a patient’s harm.
Because of this, if you have questions about advancing a medical malpractice claim in light of a doctor’s apology, an experienced attorney can advise you.