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Can apologies reduce medical malpractice suits?

One of the ways an injured person can come to terms with their injury is to find out how they were injured-the cause of an injury often helps people come to terms with their injury. But when California residents are injured at the hands of their caregivers, through doctors errors, they often either never find out they are the victims of medical negligence or the only way they can find out what went wrong is by suing.

According to some studies, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the country-they kill 251,000 people across the country annually. This doesn't include the number of people whose conditions are worsened and need to get more medical attention to get better. As mentioned above, some studies estimate that only a small percent of people ever learn that they have been a victim of medical error and of those, only two percent file a lawsuit. Of those who do file lawsuits, only 20 percent are successful in their case. This means the remaining 80 percent never find out what went wrong.

Some hospitals have moved toward approaching the problem head on-rather than deny and defend the medical mistake, they have started investigating the incident promptly and sharing the findings related to the medical errors with the patients. They also include apologies and compensation for the injuries suffered due to the medical errors. This approach seems to be working wherever implemented.

The approach is gaining popularity, as it is being touted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, but has not yet gained credence uniformly across the country. Many doctors and hospitals continue to deny any wrongdoing and admit their mistake, further worsening the patient's condition. For these patients, the only way to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their negligence may be through a medical malpractice suit.

Source: California Healthline, " Two words can soothe patients who have been harmed: We're Sorry," Sandra G. Boodman, March 15, 2017

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