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What are apology laws in medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2023 | blog, Medical Licensing

Doctors and other medical professionals can make mistakes, just like any other profession. However, medical errors and oversights can lead to significant poor outcomes, which in turn can result in legal action against physicians and specialists.

Most doctors feel significant remorse after making an error but refrain from offering an apology due to concerns about medical malpractice lawsuits. Apology laws aim to safeguard doctors by allowing them to apologize to patients without fear of litigation. Here are a few key points to consider about these laws and what they can mean for you.

How do apology laws work?

Pennsylvania is one of many states with apology laws on record. These laws state that any apologies made by a physician related to a problem with patient care cannot appear as evidence in court.

The goal of apology laws is to reduce the rate of patient lawsuits when errors and other issues occur during treatment. When doctors feel empowered to speak freely with patients and offer a genuine apology when something goes wrong, the chance of the patient pursuing legal action decreases.

Are there different types of apology laws?

Depending on the state, apology laws may be full or partial. In states with full apology laws on record, litigators cannot use as evidence any statements expressing remorse over a medical error, nor can they use any statements that disclose an error. In states with partial apology laws, the law only protects statements that express remorse, but not those that disclose errors.

Pennsylvania is a state with partial apology laws, which means disclosure of errors can play a role in subsequent litigation after a medical error. However, doctors and specialists can exhibit remorse to patients without concerns about future legal action.