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Apology Laws, Financial Compensation for Errors, and Training Staff

Last week I wrote about the challenges with compensating patients/families for legitimate medical errors that cause harm or death. In short, I opined that there are plenty of people willing to say "sorry" for such misfortunes, but not enough leaders willing to meet the financial and emotional needs of injured patients and grieving families. "Sorry" without something behind it is just a hollow word. Here is the link for that column.

Well, this week I am sharing with you an article that will add to this discussion, and hopefully increase your thinking about this topic. A study recently published by Vanderbilt researchers entitled "Sorry Is Never Enough: The Effect of State Apology Laws on Medical Malpractice Liability Risk" claims that states with so-called apology laws have actually seen higher rates of malpractice lawsuits in some instances. However, the study's authors are quick to point out that the state laws do NOT initiate the development of actual disclosure programs -- like University of Michigan -- that both compensate patients/families for legitimate medical errors and also train staff how to handle these delicate situations. The authors also acknowledge that Michigan and other hospitals that include compensation for errors and train staff have seen reduced litigation.

Indeed...saying "sorry" is not enough, and you need know what you are doing! We've said that for years at Sorry Works! Yes, absence of "sorry" is one of the leading drivers of litigation. How often have we heard from lawyers (both PI and defense) as well as consumers the following: "If someone had just said 'sorry' we would not have filed this lawsuit?" We've all heard it a million times. However, to truly bring these cases to resolution, the ability to fairly compensate needs to be part of the picture, and training staff and other colleagues is an absolute must too. You need a disclosure program!

This is why we've seen some of the more recent "apology laws" like Massachusetts and Oregon and hopefully soon in Maryland where the legislative language has certain requirements such as the development of programs, involvement of legal counsel on both sides, etc.

To help you develop your disclosure program, we offer the Sorry Works! Tool Kit. Everything you need from start to finish is included in the Kit for just $49.99. To order your kit, click on this link.

Also, remember, Sorry Works! is now a non-profit organization...we need your donations to keep providing these e-newsletters for free. Click here to make a tax deductible donation today.

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