We all know that doctors are human. As such, they are going to make mistakes. The problem is when they make mistakes on us. Objectively, we know that something, sometime, somewhere will go wrong, but it better not go wrong when we’re the ones being operated on or diagnosed.
In other areas of life, when you do something wrong, you apologize to the person who was affected by what you did. It would seem natural that a doctor who makes a mistake while treating you would apologize to you. But what if you decide to sue her? What if she did not do anything wrong, but you still did not recover the way you were supposed to? Does her apology for the pain you’re feeling mean that she is admitting she did something wrong?
Laws in almost 40 states now allow doctors to apologize to their patients without fear that those apologies will be used as evidence in a malpractice lawsuit. Advocates of such laws believe that it allows for better relationships between doctors and patients, and they allow doctors to sympathize naturally with patients who suffer adverse consequences without worry that they will be sued because an error occurred or a desired outcome was not achieved. They hope that apologies will make patients less likely to sue.
However, Vanderbilt University recently did a survey that indicates apologies are not sufficient for patients. Almost two-thirds of malpractice claims went to trial in states with apology laws, and the law made no difference. Across the board, malpractice suits have decreased, in large part because state and federal laws make it harder to fulfil the requirements to file a malpractice claim. As the cost of health care continues to rise, more and more people are looking for vindication, and laws have made it harder to seek it without ample proof.