Words can mean a lot when patients are injured or killed by medical malpractice. First came the phrase, “I’m sorry,” which I discussed just over one year ago in this post. Even the medical establishment has recognized the true value of an apology, as they have come to acknowledge that medical malpractice lawsuits are not fueled by greed , but by anger at the failure to even offer these words of comfort after lives have been derailed.
So let’s move on to the next logical phrase. What would happen if doctors began acknowledging fault after making mistakes , particularly mistakes that caused serious injury or death? Ohio physicians are pushing for a law that would allow them to own up to errors, but would prevent such admissions from being used in court. Proponents of such legislation say that it could defuse the anger and resentment of victims of malpractice, since often, what they value most is a full explanation of what happened to them. Therefore, acknowledging that a mistake was made could lessen lawsuit filings. On the other hand, opponents feel such a law would be unethical, as the admission cannot be used in court, and would present a distorted view of the evidence at trial.
At first glance, the proposed law seems a bit too favorable for doctors and hospitals. If such acknowledgments result in fewer medical malpractice lawsuits, that is not necessarily a bad thing–if, and only if,victims are compensated in alternative ways, such as quick settlements that start them on the road to recovery. Such admissions might also facilitate actual learning from mistakes, as more, and more open discussion would lead to less stigmatism of those who make them, making the sharing of lessons learned easier to do.
What do you think?