Thursday, July 27, 2006

Emerging Med-Mal Strategy: 'I'm Sorry'


Doctors' apologies for medical mistakes may not be a cure-all for litigation, but explaining unforeseen outcomes and making early settlement offers have proven effective, say lawyers who have participated in the process in the last decade.

The concept is called "full disclosure/early offer," and it's spreading.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration -- as well as a number of hospital systems and insurers across the nation -- are among the entities that have adopted variations of the policy.

Two states -- Illinois and Vermont -- have recently passed legislation providing for pilot programs to test the efficacy of full disclosure/early offer policies. Tennessee, Texas and New Jersey may soon follow.

The concept also is being promoted as a solution to the national debate over medical liability between tort reformers who would create an administrative system of "health courts" and the plaintiffs' bar and its supporters.

U.S. senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., are currently sponsoring the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation (MEDiC) bill, a national version of the full disclosure/early offer policy.

Plaintiffs attorneys and defense attorneys agree that the program -- often referred to as Sorry Works! from The Sorry Works! Coalition, a Glen Carbon, Ill., advocacy group -- is a sound strategy miscast in the public perception as a touchy-feely ritual.


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