TorteDeForm

Eric Turkewitz

More Doctors Encouraged To Say “I’m Sorry”

Cross-posted from New York Personal Injury Law Blog

A bill being considered by Rhode Island could mean they will join the ranks of other states that encourage doctors to apologize for mistakes. The story is here.

I've always believed, based on the manner in which calls come in to my office, that poor communication (bad bedside manner) is the primary reason patients call attorneys. They are angry, or confused, or both.

Which is why I found this particular quote at the end of the article really interesting...an insurance company that encourages more of the same thing that has gotten docs into trouble in the past...

Boston-based ProMutual Group, which insures 18,000 doctors, dentists and health care facilities in the Northeast, warns its clients against apologies that admit guilt -- even in states that have laws protecting doctors who say they are sorry.

It distributes a tip sheet cautioning doctors against uttering the words "error," "mistake," "fault" or "negligence."

"We encourage physicians to apologize about the outcome, not necessarily for any error that may have occurred," ProMutual spokeswoman Nina Akerley said. "Apology is not about confession."

Some folks never learn.

Eric Turkewitz: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 3:21 PM, Apr 12, 2007 in Civil Justice | Health Care | Medical Malpractice | Pro-Civil Justice Reforms
Permalink | Email to Friend


Comments

Eric says,

"I've always believed, based on the manner in which calls come in to my office, that poor communication (bad bedside manner) is the primary reason patients call attorneys. They are angry, or confused, or both."

Attorney Eric Turkewitz, are you saying, the majority of claims have an improper purpose?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | April 13, 2007 12:02 AM

Attorney Eric Turkewitz, are you saying, the majority of claims have an improper purpose?

No. Anger or confusion is often the reason for the call to the attorney. That is not the same as the reason to accept a case. Accepting a case must be based on negligence.

But with better bedside manner there would be fewer calls, and thus, fewer cases.

--ET

Posted by: Eric @ New York Personal Injury Law Blog | April 13, 2007 10:11 AM

Long-time listener, first time caller.

Supremacy Claus - it depends on how you define "claims." There are a lot of people who call attorneys for what eventually traces back to bad communication. I wouldn't call that a claim - I'd call that talking to an attorney for clarification.

These people are not medical malpractice experts, and often are confused, upset, or need closure. If you review a potential case and determine that there was no negligence, people usually understand. I don't think people's motivation for talking to a malpractice lawyer is "the doctor wasn't nice to me" as much as it is "Dad died, and I don't know why."

Just my two cents. I know you feel differently.

Posted by: Howard | April 13, 2007 10:16 AM

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Eric and Howard. Most patients just want to be talked to and treated like human beings. So many doctors have bedside manner only slightly above Alec Baldwin's in Malice, and that upsets patients. So if something goes wrong, they're already angry at the doctor.

Training doctors how to act caring instead of condescending will prevent far more malpractice lawsuits (and attempted lawsuits) than any tort "reform" measure.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | April 13, 2007 12:15 PM

Consider the statement, "It's not for the money." Assume it does not reveal an improper purpose, requiring an automatic dismissal of the lawsuit.

Shouldn't such a plaintiff admission cancel the money damages request in the lawsuit complaint?

If I were a defendant, I would ask, in ever interrogatory, "Is it for the money?" Any expression of a desire other than one to be made whole by money damages would justify dismissal. Other purposes waste the time of the court, or are not within the court's ability, in accordance with law.

The pro-litigation, pro-lawyer, anti-doctor, biased judge refuses to dismiss. OK. A statement of retributional intent should automatically raise the burden of the plaintiff to one of beyond a reasonable doubt. Recent SC decisions so imply.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | April 14, 2007 8:50 AM

Eric said, "No. Anger or confusion is often the reason for the call to the attorney. That is not the same as the reason to accept a case. Accepting a case must be based on negligence."

The term, improper purpose, does it apply to the lawyer's motivation to accept the case or to the plaintiff's to initiate the case?

I thought the purpose of the tort case was solely to make the plaintiff whole, and not to retaliate against the defendant.

Does the lawyer's purpose of making money supercede the plaintiff purpose of retribution? If that is true, I would appreciate a citation from the Rules of Civil Procedure or case law. Where does it say, the lawyer's motivation for the case, i.e. to make a living, is at all relevant to the purpose of the case?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 15, 2007 11:52 AM

"Where does it say, the lawyer's motivation for the case, i.e. to make a living, is at all relevant to the purpose of the case?"

Similarly, if a tort was committed, what difference does it make if the plaintiff hires an attorney to be "made whole" or out of anger? It doesn't.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | April 15, 2007 6:26 PM

Does the lawyer's purpose of making money supersede the plaintiff purpose of retribution

It actually doesn’t matter → provided market is allowed to work. Legal service can claim as much money as the market bear, with plaintiff attorneys as independent entrepreneurs, But the catch is that it is actually something different →

1. Even though there are so many of them. the price has not gone down as they have encouraged service like any other professionals
2. Needs only one medical Expert, to stand the case even though majority may not agree. Supremacy is right here.
3. Needs to win only few cases to make a living even though they screw up the majority
4. Has always been patronized by judges, as if they are some holy cow.
5. the claims of legal malpractice , much more difficult and expensive than medical malpractice

But even if we can brush off all these are minor frailties and I hope all professions suffer from some → it is the only service mandated by Govt. So unlike any other industry, has no risk of dying down. And they are protected from any risks you might think exist in bringing a lawsuit against another individual. and you can vindicate yourself by forcing your enemy to part with quite a bit of money, even if you don’t win. Though you deserve retribution for property damage, damage to a reputation, or other such things, can’t claim a dime for sitting endless hours in the court, for nothing. It's a frightening amount of completely unchecked power, a lawyer has.

Posted by: Anirban | April 16, 2007 11:54 AM