Mistakes happen, even in a field as serious and careful as medicine. As a result, some patients are left with unexpected results from their medical procedures. Once hospitals inform patients of medical mistakes or the patients inform the hospital, the patients' cases are moved to the legal realm, where they are viewed as a liability. This shift causes the patient to feel as though the hospital does not recognize him or her and prevents doctors from apologizing to their patients, despite their desire to do so. In an attempt to apologize without vulnerability to liability, medical professionals are sometimes instructed to attempt an apology in mediation or through a strategic apology. An apology in a mediation presents the risk that parties will recognize the apology as a strategic move. These strategic apologies fail to satisfy the needs of the injured party and result in an escalation of the conflict. For an apology to be satisfactory, the apology must include acceptance of responsibility for the specific act that caused the injury, acknowledgement of the injury that occurred as a result of that specific act, and an expression of remorse or regret. This requires informing the patient of the medical mistake soon after it is discovered, keeping them involved throughout the investigative process, and expressing true remorse or regret. Several hospitals have implemented processes to handle medical malpractice issues that satisfies these elements in one form or another. As a result, they have paid less in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Strategic Apologies in Medical Malpractice Mediation,
20 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J.
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