Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?
Medical apologies have become a hot topic for debate. As human beings we
all make mistakes and have learned to apologize for them. But what happens when those mistakes cause bodily or
mental harm to another (or even death) and the resulting apologies fuel potential lawsuits and
Despite knowing that demonstrating and communicating proper empathy and
concern toward patients when medical errors occur is the right thing to do,
the medical community is often too cautious to do so, due to increasing
fears over lawsuits. The implications of a medical malpractice lawsuit are
Medical malpractice, in basic terms, is negligence on behalf of a healthcare
provider that causes injury or death. It can result from an action taken (or
not taken) which strays from accepted standards and norms of practice within
the medical community.
These lawsuits can not only be brought against the individual healthcare
professional but also the clinic, hospital, managed healthcare organizations
and corporations who employ them.
The plaintiff in these cases is the patient or their representative, or
the executor of a deceased patient’s estate. In between the two sides are
the insurance companies, hospital administrators, and litigators whose own
interests extend much beyond any one individual case. With so many players
involved, it comes as no surprise that
medical malpractice and the apologies that should (or should
not) follow have been garnering increased attention from all concerned
parties and even legislators.
The debate has long been about whether or not apologies and open
communication to patients who have suffered adverse outcomes is in fact an
admission of guilt or wrongdoing and will subsequently lead to bigger and
more costly lawsuits. Conventional wisdom believed that, that was in fact
the case and recommendations for non-disclosure of errors, defense of
actions taken and denial of wrongdoing
was an effective policy for crisis management.
However, recent studies regarding medical apologies and open communication
have proved otherwise and have given birth to new forms of legislation and
the Full Disclosure/Early Offer movement.
Subscribers to this new ideology believe that traditional risk management
policies not only hinder the prevention of future similar occurrences (by
hiding as opposed to examining and learning from past medical errors through
full disclosure) but also may have contributed significantly to the
burgeoning medical malpractice crisis by disregarding one of our most basic
human needs—our quest for truth.
It would seem that when it comes to medical apologies, honesty still is
the best policy.
Learn more about medical malpractice
or I'm Sorry Legislation from our resident
apology expert Peter F. Goolpacy.
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