Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

Doctors Wonder, “Should I Apologize for Making a Medical Error?”

By Jack H. FarnbauchNovember 24, 2020

We here at the Sweeney Law Firm see plenty of medical malpractice victims, and it is very rare that we are told that the healthcare provider apologized for the error that was made. Apologies for medical errors and poor medical outcomes are typically omitted from the practice of medicine in tort cases. This approach to managing communication is many times to the detriment of injured patients. 

However, researchers have noted that atonement and acknowledgement of mistakes made that cause medical injury may improve relationships between medical providers and patients by decreasing anger, increasing trust and aiding in the physical and mental healing process.  Unfortunately, most often the patient is left without an explanation and there is no accountability nor apology from neither the medical provider nor the medical institution where the injury occurred. The void of communication increases hostility, jeopardizes medical recovery and reduces cooperation in medical settlement and dispute resolution. Medical providers cite fear of potential litigation as a barrier to disclosure and rendering an explanation and apology. Studies have also noted provider communication, educational and medical provider personality-related challenges contributing to failure to take responsibility and lack of accountability for medical errors.

But are healthcare providers ethically allowed to withhold information from the patient? Ethical approaches to the disclosure of medical errors in clinical practice are guided by the American Medical Association (AMA) since the adoption of a Code of Medical Ethics at the founding meeting in 1847. This code specifies that a physician is ethically bound to disclose to patients “all the facts necessary to ensure understanding of what has occurred” when a patient is experiencing medical complications resulting from a physician’s error, mistake or judgment. However, as our first-hand knowledge has shown, this is almost never the case.

You can read more here about apologies and medical errors and if you have been a victim of medical malpractice, please give us a call.