Medliorate

Improving medical students

Saying Sorry

Posted by medliorator on May 20, 2008

Malpractice lawyers say that what often transforms a reasonable patient into an indignant plaintiff is less an error than its concealment, and the victim’s concern that it will happen again.

For decades, malpractice lawyers and insurers have counseled doctors and hospitals to “deny and defend.” Many still warn clients that any admission of fault, or even expression of regret, is likely to invite litigation and imperil careers.

But with providers choking on malpractice costs and consumers demanding action against medical errors, a handful of prominent academic medical centers, like Johns Hopkins and Stanford, are trying a disarming approach.

By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation, they hope to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.

At the University of Michigan Health System, one of the first to experiment with full disclosure, existing claims and lawsuits dropped to 83 in August 2007 from 262 in August 2001, said Richard C. Boothman, the medical center’s chief risk officer.

To give doctors comfort, 34 states have enacted laws making apologies for medical errors inadmissible in court

Doctors Say ‘I’m Sorry’ Before ‘See You in Court’ [NYT]

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