There was an interesting editorial in the New York Times last month (click here) about what to do when doctors err. All the malpractice suits has driven up insurance. Says the article:
The willingness of doctors at several major medical centers to apologize to patients for harmful errors is a promising step toward improving the quality of a medical system that kills tens of thousands of patients a year inadvertently.
For years, experts have lamented that medical malpractice litigation is an inefficient way to deter lethal or damaging medical errors. Most victims of malpractice never sue, and there is some evidence that many patients who do sue were not harmed by a physician’s error but instead suffered an adverse medical outcome that could not have been prevented. The details of what went wrong are often kept secret as part of a settlement agreement.
What is needed, many specialists agree, is a system that quickly brings an error to light so that further errors can be headed off and that compensates victims promptly and fairly. Many doctors, unfortunately, have been afraid that admitting and describing their errors would only invite a costly lawsuit.
Now, as described by Kevin Sack in The Times, a handful of prominent academic medical centers have adopted a new policy of promptly disclosing errors, offering earnest apologies and providing fair compensation. It appears to satisfy many patients, reduce legal costs and the litigation burden and, in some instances, helps reduce malpractice premiums.