Does a doctor's apology lessen the likelihood of a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Does a doctor's apology lessen the likelihood of a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Many times following a poor outcome - whether a birth injury has occurred or other medical error - physicians are faced with a decision. Do they apologize for an outcome? Do they admit mistakes were made? If they do apologize - will this make it more or less likely that a medical malpractice action will follow?

Many families express that they wished that follow a tragic outcome, that they wished that the doctor had at least said I'm sorry, and that the need to hold someone accountable is a driver in their decision to seek justice through filing a medical malpractice action.

In order to address the issue, some states have implemented "I'm sorry" laws that allow doctors nurses and other medical professionals to express sympathy without their words being held against them as an admission of liability. The intent behind these laws is to allow greater human communication between patients and doctor when a poor outcome occurs and dissipate the anger many patients feel when doctors walk away from a medical error without addressing the patient. This anger many times leads to the filing of a lawsuit. However, these laws have not had the intended impact. In fact, the apology may lead patients to have more questions about the care they have received.

As medical malpractice lawyers committed to improving patient safety, this can be a good thing. Patients should question their doctor's actions when things go wrong - poor outcomes aren't always the result of medical malpractice, but often preventable mistakes have been made and families are left having to pay for a lifetime of medical care and therapy as the result of a doctor's negligence. Further, while sometimes the reaction to a medical error is anger and the need to hold someone accountable, the reality is that due to the expense of bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit only those meritorious claims are filed - after a careful review of medical records has shown that negligence exists - often after the initial anger has subsided, and a rational review of the facts shows fault. Whether a doctor apologizes for a mistake should be a personal decision. However, apology or not, where a mistake occurs and your life and your family's life will be affected for years to come, it is important to seek justice through filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. For more information, please contact the experienced California birth injury lawyers at Bostwick Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.


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