Categories: Medical Malpractice Defense,

In the medical professional, human error is possible, and even inevitable. In addressing a myriad of complex medical symptoms and emergencies on a daily basis, doctors can misdiagnose a symptom, or look back upon a patient case and see a better method for treatment. In such situations, honesty is always the best policy, especially in building a strong doctor-patient relationship suggests the AMA Code of Medical Ethics.

Under the American Medical Association's Code of Medical Ethics, doctors have a reponsibility to be honest with their patients and apologize for their mistakes if medical complications arise due to the physician's error. But, Florida medical malpractice defense lawyers warn that this honesty can be costly, especially when a mistake has serious medical repercussions. Because of the risks that accompany an apology for human error, many doctors hesitate to own up to their mistakes at the outset.

The AMA's code states that "a physician's concern about legal liability that might result from full disclosure should not affect his or her decision to deal candidly with a patient." But doctors know that admitting to a mistake can open the door to a host of legal problems, as medical malpractice suits have become increasingly common. In order to encourage the peace between the two parties—the apologetic doctor and the questioning patient—many state legislators have enacted laws to protect doctors should they apologize for a misdiagnosis or other mistake.

Florida is one of 36 states to approve a form of the so-called apology laws, medical malpractice defense attorneys report. In Florida, the law requires that "an appropriately trained person designated by the hospital shall inform each patient…in person about adverse incidents that result in serious harm to the patient." Under this law, doctors and nurses must let their patients know if they make a mistake that results in medical complications or further health issues, but the law protects that admission from legal action.

Many states have enacted similar laws dictating that a doctor's apology or "natural expression of sympathy" cannot be used as evidence of his liability in a malpractice lawsuit. These "I'm sorry" laws are distinctly different from traditional laws—the Federal Rules of Evidence and other state laws allow apologies in civil court as proof of liability. But medical defense attorneys report that these laws encourage doctors and health care professionals to admit their errors, rather than hide them.

By protecting medical professionals and disallowing their apologies to be used against them, the apology laws have helped build stronger and more trusting t doctor-patient relationships and encourage full disclosure. And in states like Florida, where an admission is mandatory, research shows that many times, patients just want to hear the apology. These laws can, in some cases, reduce the chance of litigation, and allow doctors to truly express concern and sympathy to their patients.

Admitting to your mistakes is hard for anyone to do, let alone a doctor in charge of other people's health and well-being. If you need legal counsel in the aftermath of a medical error, contact the experienced medical malpractice defense attorneys at Lubell Rosen today.