Outpatient Surgery Magazine

Patient Experience - June 2019 - Subscribe to Outpatient Surgery Magazine

Outpatient Surgery Magazine, providing current information on Surgical Services, Surgical Facility Administration, Outpatient Surgery News and Trends, OR Excellence and more.

Issue link: http://outpatientsurgery.uberflip.com/i/1131499

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Page 98 of 112

actually have the unintended consequence of increasing your liability. If you've made a mistake, it's understandable you might not know what to say. As you ponder your options, here are 3 things you should consider about medical apologies. Partial coverage Just because your state has an apology law doesn't mean you have the full protection to say, "I'm sorry." Most states protect what we call "partial apologies," or statements that come with no admission of guilt. It's the difference between say- ing, "I'm sorry you're injured," and "I'm sorry I injured you." If you've made a mistake, this partial protection comes with some inherent challenges. "I'm sorry you're injured" could come off as inadequate or insincere to a patient or a family member seeking answers. If you try to elaborate beyond the surface-level condolences, you can wade into a dangerous territory and put yourself at risk. This is one of the fundamental challenges, and perhaps weaknesses, of state apology laws: They encourage physicians to apologize with- out giving them much guidance about how to do it appropriately. They also don't offer much protection beyond simple statements of sorrow. With this in mind, it makes sense to proceed with caution. A big admission We've seen examples when physicians admitted to mistakes only to learn that those statements were admissible in court. In some states, the line is blurry between what's covered and what's admissi- ble. In one case (osmag.net/pSBhK9), an Ohio surgeon told a patient's family that "he had nicked an artery and that he took full responsibility for it." The physician believed that statement should have been protected under his state's apology law. The appellate 1 2 J U N E 2 0 1 9 • O U T PA T I E N T S U R G E R Y. N E T • 9 9

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