Saying 'I'm sorry' grows more popular in med mal cases

Historically, in medical malpractice situations, attorneys have advised doctors and hospitals to deny that any medical error has been made--or even express any form of regret that a patient is suffering. However, there's some evidence that this approach may be changing. A recent piece in the New York Times, for example, notes that a growing number of academic medical centers are experimenting with new approaches that stress quick disclosure of medical errors, honest apologies and fair compensation. By doing so, they hope to clear the air quickly, learn from their mistakes and avoid needless litigation. The approach seems to be working, as anecdotal evidence suggests that these hospitals are seeing legal savings and lower rates of lawsuits.

One institution that has tried this approach, the University of Michigan Health System, saw existing claims and lawsuits drop to 83 in August 2007 from 262 in August 2000. The hospital's legal defense costs and set-aside funds were down by two-thirds and time taken to dispose of cases has been cut in half, according to the medical center's chief risk officer. Another institution that has taken this track, the University of Illinois, has seen the number of malpractice claims filed cut in half in just over two years. Also, in 37 cases where the hospital admitted a preventable error and apologized, only one patient filed suit.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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