Doctors saying sorry to patients after medical errors is the right thing to do

What are two of the hardest words for a doctor to say?

“I’m sorry.”

Evan Falchuk, speaking from a legal perspective, understands why some defense lawyers counsels physicians not to apologize to patients: “If you say you’re sorry for something, you are implicitly taking some degree of responsibility for whatever has happened. Plaintiff’s lawyers will use a doctor’s apology to the maximum extent possible to show the doctor knew what they did was wrong.”

But apologizing after a medical error is the humane thing to do. Indeed, patients often sue simply because it’s the only way to find out what went wrong.

Erecting a wall of silence, however, is “enough to make someone very angry. And it’s awfully easy for an angry person to find a lawyer who will listen to them. At that point, it’s too late for sorry.”

Already, 35 states have passed laws prohibiting doctors’ apologies from being used against them in court. It’s time to nationally remove that impediment which prevents doctors from doing what’s right.

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