Apology & the Practice of Medicine

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Globe and Mail about making apologies to patients for medical errors, including offering compensation.

According to the news article,

By taking a principled approach of quickly disclosing medical errors and apologizing to patients, health officials hope to restore dignity in their dealings with them.  In the United States, where there are apology laws in at least 34 states, there has been a resulting reduction in malpractice claims.

For example, at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, claims and lawsuits have dropped since it began disclosing adverse events in the spring of 2002.  In August, 2001, the system had 262 claims, with more than half in litigation.  By August, 2008, it had 61 claims and only 13 in litigation, according to Richard Boothman, the medical centre’s chief risk officer.

From a transformative perspective to conflict, it is important to ensure that any apologies are from the ‘bottom-up’, have originated directly with and have been freely chosen by the parties themselves.  Any interference with or subtle directiveness of the parties’ self-determination by a third party in such circumstances vitiate, I argue, the integrity, acceptability and durability of an apology.

(H/T: Mary Thomson)