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Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis
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Hospital Errors – Is I’m Sorry Enough?

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For years, we have received calls about potential medical malpractice claims. Many times, the potential client is only complaining about poor bedside manner. Had the doctor or nurse simply said, "I’m sorry" to the patient or to the patient’s family, we would have never received a call. Of course, these individuals never have a claim anyway because of the intricacies of medical malpractice claims in Alabama.

In a recent Associated Press article from David Goodman, the doctors at the University of Michigan Health System have adopted the policy of apologizing to patients for errors at the hospital. According to the article, these doctors are admitting mistakes upfront, and in many of the cases, they are paying compensation before being sued. What is the result? Malpractice claims fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006. Open claims fell from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. They cut costs per claims in half, and they dropped their reserves by two-thirds.

Patients want honesty. They want sincerity. They want the truth. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Patients go to doctors and hospitals to receive medical care. Patients know that medicine is not an exact science. They know that mistakes happen which is why many juries rule in favor of hospitals and physicians in Alabama, at least. That’s why patients can accept apologies. They can accept mistakes. Even if it involves a loved one and a death, I believe patients can understand if the doctor, nurse, or hospital administrators sit down with the family and patient and explain what happened.

If I made a mistake as a doctor, I don’t think I could live with myself if I hid that from the patient or their family. I would want the family to be compensated for the error. That’s what malpractice insurance is for.

This is what the new internet and social media are all about. Transparency. Everyone wants to know the truth about everything. Do certain doctors make more mistakes than others? Hospitals? Now, with Twitter and Facebook and other social media outlets, you can begin to find this information. It’s also immediate.

Everyone wants the truth. That’s what the legal system is for. Searching for Justice. Searching for the truth.