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Can Doctor Apologies Promote Medical Malpractice Settlements?

It is estimated that 98,000 deaths a year can be attributed to preventable medical errors. This number is equal to one jumbo jet a day crashing and killing each and every passenger aboard.

Often times, when a medical error occurs, many doctors restrict their communication with the patient for fear of admitting fault. Consequently, the only way the victim can get answers is to go to court. These instant adversarial positions can make resolution difficult. However, a policy instituted by the University of Michigan (U-M) may have a better way to tackle these situations.

New Approach

In a report by The New York Times, Richard C. Boothman, chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health System, stated that by doctors and hospitals refusing to talk, "we have given the patient no alternative but to sue." In response, U-M Health System's new policy is what they call the "humanistic approach."

Basically, the "humanistic approach" involves the U-M conducting a full investigation following a medical mistake. This investigation includes not only the doctors, but the patient and patient's attorney as well. Then, the U-M apologizes if they feel they are in the wrong, and the parties work out reasonable compensation.

Everyone Wins

Results of this new approach have been dramatic for the U-M. Costs per medical mistake case have been cut in half, and the U-M has saved $2 million in the first year alone. Moreover, settlement time has been reduced from 20 to 10 months. It is a win-win situation, the hospital saves money and the patient injured as a result of the medical mistake receives his or her settlement sooner; not to mention the emotional closure for the victim because of an actual apology.

Medical errors occur every day and in every state. These mistakes can have devastating effects on the victim, and can cause lifelong agony or even death. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area to be advised of your rights and options.

Source: Should Doctors Apologize when They Make Mistakes?

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