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Hospitals and doctors: Apologizing matters and saves money

Should a doctor apologize if he or she makes a mistake that injures you or a loved one? Some believe that hospitals should speak up immediately and take steps to make it right. For example, one man who faced a botched surgery that left him a quadriplegic received an apology and an undisclosed payment in compensation. The case never went to court. In another case, a woman wasn't given any answers and dedicated her time to finding out what went wrong.

Cases in which patients don't get answers are more likely to end up in litigation as the families fight to find out what really went wrong. If a hospital or doctor owns its mistakes, apologizes and takes steps to correct errors, it's likely that families and patients are going to be more understanding.

In the past, hospitals were not transparent and used a defensive model after mistakes. Now, new programs aim to reduce litigation by promptly discussing errors with patients. With medical errors costing the lives of thousands every year, admitting these mistakes and finding ways to prevent them is important to patients in the future.

A new approach called CANDOR, or Communication and Optimal Resolution, requires the investigation of errors as soon as possible. It also requires apologies, compensation for victims and transparency in the case. In Michigan, where one such program was used, the number of lawsuits that went to court was almost cut in half.

After you or someone you know are hurt in a hospital or by a doctor, you have the right to know what happened. You can file a claim for compensation, especially if the hospital is unwilling to discuss your case with you directly.

Source: The Denver Post, "Should hospitals — and doctors — apologize for medical mistakes?," Sandra G. Boodman, March 13, 2017

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