Thursday, 12 April 2007

It's hard to say I'm sorry...when you're a doctor

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I'll never forget when my own favorite doctor apologized to me. He hadn't made a mistake, really, he had just underestimated me and my ability to manage my own medical care. I pushed for a test, he rolled his eyes, and when the results came back he was man enough to admit I may have just solved my own problem. His ability to apologize and see me as an equal in my own health care makes me a loyal patient.

But in the medical industry, an apologize can be equal to an admission of guilt, leading malpractice lawyers to advice their doctor clients against using the old-fashioned "I'm sorry" when they make a mistake. But states are now looking at laws that will let a physician apologize and not have those words being used against them in court.

"I'm sorry" can go a long way toward emotional healing and experts hope that by admitting they made a mistake, doctors may be able to prevent more lawsuits than they cause. Critics say that even in states with these kinds of laws, doctors who admit guilt may still be headed for court. Malpractice insurance companies, who obviously guard their own best interests as well, advise doctors to apologize for the outcome, but never for something they personally did. What do you think? Should your M.D. say he or she is sorry when they do wrong, or should they be allowed to protect themselves even if they know they made a mistake?

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