Apology laws encourage full disclosure to medical malpractice victims

A recent editorial discussed the advantages to so-called “apology laws.” Apology laws act as an alternative to “tort reform” and give doctors the opportunity to express sympathy and compassion after medical malpractice occurs without fear that their words will be used against them in a civil suit. Florida was one of the first states to pass an apology law, which also required hospitals to inform patients of incidents that caused serious harm.

Although the laws are enacted, doctors and hospitals have not taken the lead in developing or implementing apology programs. Although the public expects physicians to be honest and forthcoming and the American Medical Association Code of Ethics requires disclosure when significant medical malpractice occurs, only in about 30% of cases are medical mishaps disclosed to the patient.

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