Thirty-six states have “apology laws” that prohibit certain statements or expressions of sympathy by a physician from being admissible in a lawsuit.

Experts in the field say that while the laws may help some physicians feel more comfortable about expressing empathy, they aren’t really necessary to avoid lawsuits. Instead, good patient-physician relationships and open disclosure are the keys to responding successfully to a bad outcome.

Apology laws are designed to encourage compassion in the wake of a bad medical outcome, instead of the old paradigm of physicians and hospital being evasive and running for cover.

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