Recently I posted on how Americans can “never accept” the Iraqi wish to have an apology for wrongful deaths, instead of mere monetary compensation. In response to a comment from Sunil, I wrote: “… an apology is an implied admission of wrongdoing, which in America will lead to enormous claims of damages. So let’s not even think of going there.”
So this story in the NYT was quite interesting to read. Apparently some medical centres in that country are experimenting with apologising for errors, and are seeing legal claims against them, and legal costs, come down sharply. From the story:
For decades, malpractice lawyers and insurers have counseled doctors and hospitals to “deny and defend.” Many still warn clients that any admission of fault, or even expression of regret, is likely to invite litigation and imperil careers.
But with providers choking on malpractice costs and consumers demanding action against medical errors, a handful of prominent academic medical centers, like Johns Hopkins and Stanford, are trying a disarming approach.
By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation, they hope to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.
Malpractice lawyers say that what often transforms a reasonable patient into an indignant plaintiff is less an error than its concealment, and the victim’s concern that it will happen again.
Despite some projections that disclosure would prompt a flood of lawsuits, hospitals are reporting decreases in their caseloads and savings in legal costs…
Somehow I’m not surprised, but it is very welcome news. It is also interesting that the lead “apologetic” doctor in that story is of Indian origin. Though I suppose he had his institution’s backing to apologise.
In India most doctors of my acquaintance are very approachable, but I have no idea what happens in case of severe error. And if the doctor is not apologetic (and the patient is not convinced that it was a genuine and rare error), there is little legal recourse.
Also one should note that, in the NYT story, the patients who were apologised to did get compensation — substantially less than what a court may have awarded, but still sizeable. I don’t know whether that happens in India at all.