For consumers who have suffered injury or wrongful death of a loved one due to medical malpractice, often an apology isn’t enough. As medical expenses and other bills mount, and disability or death prevents a return to work, an apology cannot make up for the devastating economic consequences of a healthcare catastrophe. Even worse, apologies by healthcare providers are often part of a cynical strategy to avoid malpractice claims.
Insurers and hospital administrators have been adopting the practice of apologizing as part of a method to reduce medical negligence claims. Apologies made by healthcare providers for medical errors have been identified as a mitigating factor in whether patients decide to litigate. However, at the same time, healthcare providers are reluctant to admit fault under any circumstances. To resolve this conflict, insurers and healthcare providers have lobbied State Legislatures around the country to adopt so-called “apology laws.”
Apology laws specify that a healthcare provider’s apology is inadmissible in court. So, the negligent doctor or hospital can offer an insincere apology with the hope that it will help them to avoid a medical negligence claim. But, if the apology doesn’t work, they cannot be held accountable for their admission of incompetence or error. It is a no-lose situation, unless you are the injured consumer. In an article entitled The Limits of Apology Laws, an ethicist with the Hastings Center wrote that apology laws are “beneficial only if they are accompanied by full disclosure and fair compensation….”
In short, an apology alone is not enough when a serious medical error occurs. In fact, when used as part of a campaign to reduce malpractice claims, the apology literally adds insult to injury. When considering the cynical methodology behind many such apologies, it is easy to see why, for Ohio consumers injured by a medical error, many ordinary people choose to call an attorney to explore options other than accepting an insincere apology.