Ohio Medical Malpractice Bill Would Expand “I’m Sorry” Law
A new bill put forward in the Ohio General Assembly would extend legal protection to physicians who admit to mistakes or take responsibility for them as part of private conversations with patients. The new Ohio medical malpractice bill would expand on a statute already on the books in the state known as an “I’m Sorry” law, which shields doctors’ expressions of sympathy, condolences, or apology from being used in a court of law as evidence of liability. Supporters of the bill stress that nothing contained therein would prevent a patient from suing a doctor following any such admission of a mistake.
Six other states already have the more expansive law in place and such legislation is currently pending in the U.S Congress, having already passed in the House of Representatives in late November. Details of such laws vary from state to state.
Supporters argue Ohio malpractice bill would reduce litigation
The recent bill, as well as the “I’m sorry” legislation before it, came about due in part to the uncomfortable position that doctors were apt to find themselves in following a tragedy, in which they felt it appropriate to express some form of sympathy to family members, but held back out of fear of legal consequences. The bill has strong support from physicians and medical groups.
Such supporters also argue that the bill would significantly reduce the amount of litigation associated with medical malpractice because an apology from the doctor or an explanation of what went wrong is often what family members most want to hear. Tim Maglione, a lobbyist for the Ohio State Medical Association, says that the desire for clarity about what went wrong is often at the root of a family’s decision to sue in the first place. Maglione continued that “When patients do get this explanation and they do get answers, a lot of times that’s really all they want.” And when this happens, Maglione explained, the need for a time in court is no longer there. Thus, the bill has the potential to reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Ohio.
Detractors say the bill is problematic, unnecessary
Detractors of the bill have expressed concerns about the ethics associated with it and the possibility of perjury, in which doctors will not be concerned to provide testimony on oath that is consistent with conversations that they had with patients.
Many who oppose the bill are attorneys who represent those injured by medical malpractice. A trial attorney from Columbus noted that medicine is the only profession where admissions of mistakes are not allowed to be presented before a jury.
The lawyer also argued that numbers of medical malpractice cases have already gone down significantly due to caps on awards, and the “I’m Sorry” laws already on the books. He also suggested that doctors put information about their patients in medical records so that family members will have a clear understanding of what happened, thus fulfilling their need for closure.
- ABC News, Ohio Bill Would Shield Doctors Who Say 'My Fault' http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/ohio-bill-shield-doctors-fault-27296099
- NCSL, Medical Professionals Apologies 2011 Legislation http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-professionals-apologies-2011-legislation.aspx