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Sorry Isn’t Enough: Apology Laws Don’t Limit Doctor’s Risk of Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Richard A. Silver

March 30, 2017 

Apology laws are designed to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits by allowing doctors to apologize to patients or their families, with those statements prohibited from being admissible in a lawsuit. However, a recent Vanderbilt University study found that these laws do not limit medical malpractice lawsuits.

After analyzing 3,517 malpractice claims, the researchers found that apology laws do not have a statistically significant effect on the probability that a surgeon will face a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, they increase the probability of a lawsuit being filed against other types of doctors because the apologies may alert patients to nonsurgical errors they would not have discovered otherwise, such as misdiagnosis or failure to refer, which can encourage them to file a lawsuit.

Wouldn’t it be better for patients if rather than “sorry isn’t enough,” doctors would never have to say they’re sorry because medical errors were eliminated from every type of hospital setting?

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