The Washington Post, August 4, 2010

It seems entirely obvious: Doctors need to apologize for their errors, even if the patient didn't suffer irreparable harm. But in the real world of medicine, acknowledging responsibility is a dicey proposition. To most physicians it's tantamount to handing your head to a lawyer on a surgical tray. This fear of lawsuits is so potent that even the most ethical physicians want to clam up when issues of medical error arise. Apologies can often be considered evidence of fault. Depending on the state, there are some protections for apologies that express sympathy, but there is variation as to whether this extends to apologies that invoke responsibility for an error. Typically, the most that doctors can muster is, "I'm so sorry this happened."



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