Medical malpractice cases are a special breed within the field of tort jurisprudence as mistakes in the medical field are regrettably inevitable. Medical universities use some of the greatest hospitals in this country as interactive classrooms to teach future physicians. A vast number of people are treated in hospitals throughout the United States every day, and of those treated, a number are neglected under the confines of the law. The American public expects infallible care from our health care system and any deviation from perfection may result in legal action. Those wronged seek litigation primarily as a means to punish the hospital and physician and to prevent that physician from being a threat to future patients. Patients also seek for their physicians to admit that they made a mistake. Those attorneys that specialize in medical malpractice lawsuits know that amidst the current hospital culture of "shame and blame," the hospitals and physicians rarely admit to their mistakes. Thus, such a lawsuit will only provide monetary compensation to the patient or the estate that suffered injury as a result of the malpractice, neglecting the patient's fundamental reasons for bringing the lawsuit. Physicians and hospitals across the country are also facing drastically increasing medical malpractice premiums in many practice areas. The United States General Accounting Office's 2003 report on escalating medical malpractice premiums found the primary reason for the rise in premium rates was the losses incurred by insurance companies in medical malpractice litigations." Ever-increasing premiums are causing some physicians to leave their career-long practices to open new offices in jurisdictions with more reasonable insurance premiums or leave the medical profession altogether. Because the verdicts of monetary compensation are ineffective in addressing the true desires of patients who are initiating lawsuits and the effect of these verdicts on physician's premiums, hospitals and patient safety groups have looked to alternative means of resolving these disputes. One must question, however, if a preemptive measure is available for hospitals and their staff to alleviate the overall amount of medical malpractice claims. This article will analyze the current system of addressing medical malpractice lawsuits and look to the components of a medical system that accepts apology as a means to preempt the claims from ever arising.
Ashley A. Davenport,
Forgive and Forget: Recognition of Error and Use of Apology as Preemptive Steps to ADR or Litigation in Medical Malpractice Cases ,
6 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/drlj/vol6/iss1/3