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Should Doctors Apologize for Medical Mistakes?

September 27th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation on Thursday, September 27, 2018.

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana. Doctors are only human. They sometimes make mistakes. We want to believe that when we seek medical treatment, the treatment we are receiving is based on a perfect science, but the reality is that doctors can make mistakes just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, when doctors do make mistakes, they may be less likely to apologize or admit to having made an error due to the fear over a lawsuit. Yet, when an error is glaring, and doctors fail to apologize, this, in itself, can lead to a greater risk of lawsuits.

CNN reports on a case where a woman went in for surgery and had the wrong body part removed. The woman is suing the hospital because of what happened, but she claims that she is not suing simply because of the mistake, but because she never received an apology from the doctor or the hospital. The woman claims that no one explained how the mistake occurred and no one apologized. Because of the risk of lawsuits, many doctors and hospitals have a policy of “deny and defend” when really, sometimes, “acknowledging and apologizing” is the best policy.

In fact, saying “I’m sorry” is not necessarily an admission of negligence in 36 states. Doctors can apologize and still make a case that they followed standards of care should a medical malpractice claim go to court. In fact, apologizing is not only the right thing for doctors and hospitals to do, it can save them money in the long run. When patients feel that a mistake was acknowledged, they may be more likely to work with the hospital to receive an out of court settlement for damages, rather than pursuing public and costly litigation. Failing to apologize can also weaken a doctor’s or hospital’s case if it were to go to trial. According to CNN, juries don’t like to see cover ups. In fact, when hospitals actively work to apologize and compensate patients after something goes wrong, everyone wins. Patients don’t want to endure a painful court case, and hospitals don’t want the bad publicity and cost. Everyone can win when hospitals admit their wrongdoing and reach settlements.

In a research paper by the Journal of Dispute Resolution, doctors who offered patients the standard of care who later apologized for errors might not always be held negligent if a patient later takes the doctor to court, claiming malpractice. In a malpractice claim, an apology alone isn’t enough to prove medical malpractice. The patient or the patient’s lawyer must prove that the doctor deviated from the standard of care.

Unfortunately, patients may not always be made aware when a mistake has been made. Many doctors and hospitals will deny and defend before admitting to medical errors.

So, what can you do to protect yourself? If you have been hurt due to the negligent actions of a doctor, consider speaking to the medical malpractice lawyers at the The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana today. Our Firm can review your situation and help you understand what steps you can take. Medical malpractice claims can be complex lawsuits because you’ll need to show that the doctor failed to provide a standard of care. Visit our website at the The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm to learn more about how we may be able to assist you.

The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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