Monday, March 16, 2009

A sorry law

It may strike you as a bit odd, but apparently, in more than a few states, it just isn't legal for a doctor to say, "I'm sorry". Well, okay, maybe that's oversimplifying things. In more than a few states, it's apparently possible for a doctor to apologize, but they might have those statements used against them later during a potential malpractice suit.

Well, Pennsylvania is considering a law giving doctors the ability to apologize without the crippling fear of a huge lawsuit coming against them. In many ways, this makes sense. After all, there are times where, no matter what the doctor does, there just isn't anything that can be done for the patient. The words "I'm sorry" would be completely applicable in this instance. As would situations where a minor mistake at one point in the procedure could lead to the incorrect steps being followed.

Besides, it's not like the doctors are going around apologizing on a regular basis. Saying "I'm sorry" is a way of showing empathy and concern for your fellow human being, and while it may also include a level of acceptance of a mistake, it at least is couched by a legitimate concern. After all, we're not talking about surgeons and residents going around saying "Oops" without a fear of repercussion. And it might actually cause people to feel somewhat better about the treatment, no matter the result, if they simply got the inkling that they were more than an insurance policy and a bunch of zeros to the people trying to fix them up.

In fact, if this legislation goes through, we think it deserves an "apology five".

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