Recent studies indicate that malpractice claims decrease when health-care practitioners apologize for mistakes or negative outcomes, but some clinicians fear that such an apology could be used against them if a malpractice lawsuit occurs.
Actor James Woods, whose brother Michael Woods died from a heart attack at Kent Hospital in Rhode Island, recently spoke to state lawmakers in support of a bill that would allow physicians to apologize without fear. The bill would make health-care practitioners’ apologies inadmissible in a malpractice suit, allowing doctors to say, “I’m sorry,” without the threat of repercussion.
Following his brother’s death in 2006, Woods sued the hospital, alleging that the ED staff did not do enough to help his brother. The lawsuit was settled after the hospital’s CEO, Sandra Coletta, apologized and agreed to start an institute in Michael Woods’ name.
The Rhode Island Medical Society and other medical groups support the bill, but some attorneys have criticized it on the grounds that it may shield doctors from assuming responsibility for medical errors.