Doctors want the option to apologize to patients, study shows

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 3, 2006

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Physicians want to say "I'm sorry," according to a survey of more than 1,000 physician members of the American College of Physician Executives.

The "Patient Trust and Safety Survey," released in March, found that 81% of doctors said health care organizations should encourage apologies for medical errors; 55% of doctors said their organizations encourage making apologies to reduce lawsuits.

On the flip side, interviews with 1,000 patients showed 57% said they would be less likely to sue if the doctor or hospital that made the medical mistake issued an apology, while 25% said they would be more likely to sue.

Bill Steiger, editor of the ACPE's Physician Executive Journal, said the issue was a "hot topic" among doctors. "They really want to say 'I'm sorry' but are being told by lawyers and other legal counsel not to," because doctors' statements could be used against them as an admission of guilt, he said.

The ACPE conducted the survey to investigate both sides of the apology issue, Steiger said, but the organization has not taken a position.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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