Apology laws are designed to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits by allowing doctors to convey their apologies to victims and their families injured by medical mistakes. Apology laws were enacted to encourage greater communication between doctors and patients by excluding physician apologies from malpractice trials. However, recent research conducted by Vanderbilt University suggests these laws may actually have the opposite effect.
Apology laws are part of an ongoing reform effort to reduce malpractice costs. The logic is that because many malpractice victims sue their doctors not only for damages but also out of anger, an apology might be effective in staving off some of the more minor claims. Without apology laws, doctors’ apologies can be used as evidence in court. By making them inadmissible, more doctors may feel safe to convey their remorse, hopefully reducing the victim’s feelings of anger.
The Vanderbilt study, published in December 2016, analyzed the data compiled from 3,517 malpractice cases from 2004-2011. These cases represent 90 percent of all doctors practicing a single specialty across the U.S. Three-quarters of these doctors were surgeons. On the books in more than 30 states, apology laws are not achieving their intended results.
An Opposite Effect
The study determined that apology laws not only fail to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against surgeons, they also actually increase the likelihood that other types of physicians will face medical malpractice suits. Researchers deduce that the increase in non-surgical medical malpractice cases is due to the fact that in “apologizing” for medical errors, physicians actually alert patients to problems that may not be as easily detected as surgical errors.
The hope is that if a patient believes that their physician is remorseful, they might accept a lower payout. In all of the Vanderbilt data, there was no evidence that apology laws reduce the amount of medical malpractice payments. In fact, payment amounts received from doctors who did not perform surgery increased.
Increases in medical malpractice claims can have serious consequences for patient care. Doctors may respond to high malpractice costs by providing less care, retiring early, or even performing unnecessary procedures that may not be ideal but that reduce liability. This is called “defensive medicine.” When it comes to reducing the costs and cases associated with medical malpractice, apology laws simply do not work. While patients want to hear doctors say sorry for medical mistakes, it will not stop them from filing a lawsuit.
Delaware County Medical Mapractice Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Fight for Injured Victims
Saying sorry does not absolve your doctor of responsibility for causing your injury. If you have been injured due to a medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. Doctors are expected to provide a reasonable standard of care, and when they fail to do so, they need to be held accountable. If you are in pain or cannot work because of a doctor’s mistake, call the Delaware County medical malpractice lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC.
Our associates are prepared to tackle complicated malpractice claims and achieve the best resolution for you. Call our offices at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to begin. We have offices in Philadelphia, Media, and Abington, Pennsylvania, and Haddonfield, New Jersey to serve you.