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Acknowledgment and Apology for Medical Errors is Good for All

Have you been a victim of a medical error? While following a medical mistake there may not be anything that can be done to undo the injury inflicted, the power of a simple “I’m sorry” should not be understated. While commonplace in other situations where a mistake is made, out of fear of liability, in medical settings it is not always offered. Recognizing the power of an apology, 36 states have laws on the books that prohibit those who suffer from a medical error from using an apology in a malpractice action. To date, Wisconsin is not among them.

The policies of a hospital located across the country-Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford-illustrate how such an approach could be beneficial to all involved. As part of a resolution program introduced in 2009, in addition to offering a financial settlement to those impacted by medical mistakes, the hospital also provides information regarding what happened, outlines how they are going to learn from the incident and apologizes for it. This approach is beneficial not only to the injured party, but potentially to others in the future as new safety protocol could be developed as a result of an investigation into what happened.

The woman who now serves as the hospital’s Assistant Vice President of communication and resolution understands the benefits of the hospital’s program firsthand. She experienced this very thing after her young son died when alarms on a machine that was monitoring his heart were turned off.

There is no question that a medical mistake that results in a serious injury or death, can leave those impacted distraught, overwhelmed and unsure of what action to take. The combination of an apology, as well as a financial settlement, can make it easier for those individuals to move forward with life. While currently, it may be difficult to secure an apology from Wisconsin health care providers who make medical mistakes, a knowledgeable attorney may be able to secure damages. Attorney Kevin Martin advocates for his clients, putting his knowledge as a former registered nurse to work for them. For more information on how he might help you, please see his website.