Medical Malpractice: Is “I’m Sorry” Enough?

June 8, 2012 | Crandall & Pera Law
Medical Malpractice: Is “I’m Sorry” Enough?

Several hospitals across the country are adopting an apology program based on the assumption that saying “I’m sorry” would make patients less likely to sue, reducing the number of medical malpractice lawsuits, according to WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

Gabriel Teninbaum, an associate professor at Suffolk University Law School in Massachusetts, a state where these programs are making a foothold, believes that these methods are used by hospitals solely to save themselves, not to offer any comfort to the patients in question.

“My concern is that a patient, after suffering a terrible injury as a result of an accident, will confuse a communication they have with their doctor as being intended to heal, when in fact it’s intended to keep them from pursuing money damages,” said Teninbaum.

One of the main issues raised regarding this program is the fact that, on average, patients who receive apologies tend to receive less money than patients did before the program was put in place because patients can be manipulated into underestimating the realistic amount of money they will need to carry on after such an injury.

Teninbaum believes there is a scenario that could work for the mutual benefit of both the hospital and the patient; as long as the patient is instructed to seek legal counsel from the very outset, the outcome could be positive for all parties involved.

“…What you’re providing the patient with is empowerment so that they can go out and get educated on what their rights are,” Teninbaum said. “And from there, there can be a fuller transparent conversation where everyone is on the same page about how to resolve the matter.”

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Law Professor: Medical Apology Programs Might Manipulate Patients

Steve Crandall, a top rated medical malpractice lawyer in Ohio and Kentucky, agrees that these apology programs are yet another way to protect the care provider at the expense of the patient.

Crandall believes laws that are purposely written to protect physicians’ apologies and admissions of mistakes need to be changed; if he or she admits they were negligent, then this information should be allowed be presented to the jury in a court of law.

“There are no laws to prevent the physician from bringing up when a patient thanks them or sends a kind note even when the patient is not fully aware of the mistake that physician made,” said Crandall. “How is that fair?”

Steve Crandall is available to help answer your medical malpractice questions and guide you in determining your next steps; for any questions, contact Steve Crandall.