Law Offices of Judy Snyder

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Would an apology for surgical errors be enough?

There is a change happening across the country when it comes to errors made by medical professionals. Many hospitals around the country and here in Oregon have -- or are -- adopting new policies encouraging doctors, nurses and others to apologize to patients when a mistake happens and provide them with an explanation of what went wrong. There seems to be a drop in the number of medical malpractice claims filed in connection with diagnosis, treatment and surgical errors when this policy is instituted.

However, there are many more cases where an apology and explanation is simply not enough to compensate a patient for permanent and/or debilitating injuries or a family whose loved one died. Even so, there could be some truth to the fact that some people file medical malpractice claims because they feel they were not treated appropriately in the aftermath of a mistake. For example, one woman, says that she might not have filed a lawsuit if she had been given an apology and explanation instead of being lied to and dismissed.

In her example, surgeons operated on the wrong body part, and when she was told a second surgery was required, she was given conflicting stories as to why that was necessary. The Connecticut woman says that the situation was handled poorly. At one point, she was even told that the situation was not serious enough for the hospital's legal office to get involved.

As would more than likely be the case with a patient here in Oregon, this angered the woman. Whether an apology and explanation is sufficient to make up for surgical errors depends on the circumstances, but it should not be considered a scapegoat for the medical staff or hospital. In many cases, they still need to be held responsible for their actions.

Source:, "Lawsuit brings 'I'm sorry' medical laws to forefront", Elizabeth Cohen, March 24, 2016

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