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When your doctor's apology doesn't cut it

Many of us have personally experienced, or know somebody who has experienced, medical error by a health care provider. Not every case of medical error results in medical malpractice litigation, of course, but many people who are harmed by a provider at least consider the possibility.

One of the measures that hospitals and providers have taken to reduce the occurrence of medical malpractice litigation over medical errors is to implement disclosure and apology programs. These programs involve policies which encourage doctors to communicate mistakes to patients and offer apologies and compensation where necessary. These programs are coming to be seen as a helpful preventative measure with respect to malpractice litigation. 

The University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor has a well-known communication and resolution program which began in 2001. Since the program was implemented, the average cost for legal expenses per case has been halved. Such programs can certainly be a helpful means to resolve some cases, but do have their limitations. And, there will always be cases where out-of-court resolution is not the right answer.

In the universe of medical malpractice, it is important for injured patients to realize that the costs of litigation are great, and that taking a case to court requires careful consideration of the merits of the case, the likely outcome and alternative means of resolving the dispute. It is important for those considering medical malpractice litigation to consult with an experienced attorney to have their case professionally evaluated so as to ensure the most efficient resolution possible. 

Source:, "Disclosure programs reduce lawsuits, but bring challenges," Alicia Gallegos, March 4, 2013. 

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