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28 Renal & Urology News MARCH 2009 MALPRACTICE NEWS BY MYRA DEMBROW should be made explicit. “When done well, standards and checklists can Report: Most States help improve the quality and reduce Protect Apologies the costs of care and enhance rather than compromise the profession of Doctors in 35 states and the Dis- medicine,” he maintains. trict of Columbia can commiser- “Gone are the days when a doctor ate with patients or their families was on his own, carrying all the tools and worry less about the legal of modern medicine in a black repercussions. leather bag,” Dr. Pronovost says. That’s the view of William M. “Today, much of care is team-based, McDonnell, MD, JD, who teaches and the wealth of techniques and at the law school and medical 4 wisdom is too much for one doctor ILLUSTRATION BY R. MANCUSO school at the University of Utah in to keep in his or her head. Stan- Salt Lake City. He and Elisabeth dardization and a move away from Guenther, MD, MPH, have compiled physician autonomy will help guar- No apology law Sympathy only Admissions of fault a status report on “apology laws” ac- antee that each patient receives the ross the country as of March 31, 2008 best treatment available.” (Ann Intern Med. 2008;149:811-815). Apology laws in the United States are a fairly recent trend in the United States, varying from state to state with regard to the level of protection afforded. Citing an actual Colorado mal- Insurers Cut Premiums practice case, the authors give this in Several States example of a problematic statement: “Because they are so recent and 98,000 Americans who die each “I’m sorry about your father’s situa- because physicians remain unfamil- year because of hospital error, the Doctors in at least four states are tion. Things might have turned out iar with them, there is little evidence critical-care specialist asserts. paying less for malpractice insur- better had I been more up to date on yet as to whether [these statutes] “Imagine,” he says. “America has ance than they were a year ago. current treatment options.” The first improve communication or reduce some of the best doctors and medi- After keeping rates flat for five sentence is an expression of sympa- errors,” they conclude. Citing the ef- cine in the world, yet we are getting years, LAMMICO (whose name is thy; the second could be construed fective use of Virginia’s apology law it right only half of the time.” derived from the Louisiana Medical as an admission of fault. in excluding a physician’s apology a
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