Profession

Massachusetts physicians lobby for apology protections

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 4, 2009

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Allowing physicians to express sympathy to patients when an adverse event occurs -- without the statements being used against them in court -- would help open communication and close the door on needless litigation.

That's according to testimony delivered in April by the Massachusetts Medical Society to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The medical organization is backing a pair of bills that would create a system permitting doctors and other health care professionals to apologize for medical errors and encouraging parties to settle disputes before rushing to legal action.

Physicians anticipate that the measures not only would reduce lawsuits and, ultimately, medical liability insurance costs, but also help eliminate defensive medicine practices, such as ordering unnecessary tests.

The bills would have to overcome objections from the trial bar, which -- though supportive of alternatives for resolving disputes out of court -- has protested such apology protections as special exemptions for physicians.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/05/04/prbf0504.htm.

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