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Insight Does Saying, ‘I’m Sorry’ Help?

By Thomas J. Mortell,

Has a physician ever made a mistake that harmed you or a loved one? Did the physician apologize? Whether to offer a simple “I’m sorry,” when things didn’t go as planned, has long been the subject of debate among health care providers, their attorneys, and their malpractice insurers.

On one hand, acknowledgments of responsibility and regret, which are the right thing to do in our culture, often go a long way in promoting healing and forgiveness. According to most definitions, an apology acknowledges responsibility for causing a problem and seeks the suffering party’s forgiveness. In the world of health care, an apology shows that the medical provider takes responsibility for his or her actions, respects the patient, and cares about the patient’s outcome. It also demonstrates that the physician is suffering along with the patient, engendering feelings of trust between physician and patient. Consequently, a proper apology can help diffuse a difficult situation and quiet the patient’s anger.

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If you would like more information about this topic or other legal issues, please contact a member of our Health Law Group or call 208.344.6000.

This article first appeared in the Idaho Business Review.

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