Sunday, December 13, 2009

Proposed Law Would Allow Apologies

Molly Koch

A Rhode Island lawmaker is introducing a bill that would make it easier for medical facilities to apologize for mistakes, without automatically facing legal repercussions.

This is happening in the wake of the Michael Woods’ wrongful death lawsuit filed against Kent Hospital.

James Woods told reporters all he needed following the death of his brother Michael at Kent Hospital was a sincere apology from the center's medical staff. But legal representatives often advise doctors that saying sorry could be seen as an admission of guilt, leading to a lawsuit.

The law is being pushed by Warwick Representative Joe McNamara, because he believes that allowing medical personnel to offer sentiments not only would comfort patients' families, but also that it could save money, by cutting down on expensive legal proceedings.

McNamara's plan would make apologies inadmissible in court. But the measure was previously scrapped last year, because of concerns that apologies would be made strategically to help exclude other damaging evidence. In response to those concerns, McNamara has said that the bill strictly defines what constitutes an apology.

This new law would be the first of its kind in the country. Michigan lawmakers have instituted a similar change of policy that has significantly lowered lawsuits, down from 260 in 2001 to only 83 in 2003.


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