Pennsylvania law aims to improve doctor-patient relationships

Even with the best medical care, patients sometimes get less-than-desirable results. In some cases, Philadelphia residents may feel they were a victim of medical malpractice, through which a doctor’s negligence caused a worsened condition. In either case, doctors may feel inclined to express empathy for the patient. A new state law would keep those apologies from being used as an admission of guilt, which advocates claim would lead to fewer lawsuits.

In Pennsylvania, the number of medical malpractice suits has more than doubled since 2008. There were 14 case in 2008, and 35 as of Dec. 1 this year. The new law aims to improve doctor-patient relationships, which some say can result in fewer court battles. In Michigan, for example, an apology law passed in 2001, resulting in half the number of suits and a $2 million drop in litigation expenses. Research supports similar findings in some of the other 36 states that have passed these laws.

The law goes into effect before the end of the year and extends to physicians as well as nursing home staff and administrators. One local doctor noted that the protection the regulation would provide could open an avenue for more discussion between doctors and patients instead of keeping doctors in fear of expressing regret.

The law will not protect doctors from being sued if they actually have harmed a patient. When doctor negligence has negative effects, it is imperative for the victim to seek legal counsel to help file a claim. Medical expenses, pain and suffering can be both financially and emotionally exhausting. An attorney can help a victim get compensation for the damages they incurred.

Source: Lancaster Online, “Can physicians’ apologies curb malpractice lawsuits?” Cindy Stauffer, Dec. 15, 2013



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