Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"I'm Sorry" Laws Nationwide Protect Medical Professionals

Controversial Laws Exclude Doc's Apology as Proof of Liability in Malpractice Suits

f a doctor treating you or your loved one makes a medical mistake and tells you "I'm sorry," would you forgive and forget? Would "I'm sorry" help you heal from a tragic ending caused by a medical error? Some people believe just hearing an apology from a doctor can make a huge difference to the patient or loved one. Steven Minicucci, a Rhode Island malpractice lawyer calls it the "I'm sorry I killed your mother" law. A proposed law in Massachusetts would give doctors more freedom to apologize for medical errors without it being used against them in court.

You may have your own story about a medical error. There are certainly many stories in the media that shock us and make us wonder how these mistakes could happen by licensed medical professionals. A few years ago, my brother had back surgery. Six weeks later, he was deathly ill from a surgical device accidentally left in his abdomen that caused infection. He was rushed into a second surgery to remove the device.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported in 1999, that as many as 98,000 deaths in the United States occur each year from medical errors. According to the IOM study, 90% of the deaths resulted from failed systems and procedures, not the negligence of doctors. These findings helped prompt Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to hit the pavement in search of making patient safety the centerpiece of medical liability reform. Their perspective was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on May 25, 2006. According to their report, studies show that negligence is not the most important factor in people's decision to file a lawsuit, but rather, ineffective communication between patients and providers.

This national shift in the health care system is in response to rising malpractice costs and the growing patient right-to-know movement. The old risk-management strategy where medical professionals deny-and-defend seems to encourage medical malpractice suits by making people angry. Now, at least 29 states have passed the so-called "I'm sorry" law, where doctors can apologize or express sympathy for medical mistakes without having to worry about the expressions being used against them in court. Saying, "I'm sorry" in many states will no longer be viewed as an admission of guilt in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

source : www.associatedcontent.com

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