Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

The University of Michigan Health System has adopted a novel approach to dealing with medical errors–doctors fess up and apologize to the affected patients. The patients are also offered compensation. Though some may believe that admitting mistakes can only encourage medical malpractice lawsuits, the University of Michigan Health System has found that lawsuits have declined.

Chief risk officer Richard Boothman co-authored an article about this practice in the Journal of Health & Life Sciences Law in 2009. Lawsuits against the university’s system dropped by nearly half over the course of five years–from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006. The system also improved its claims processing time.

This open system of admitting error has been adopted by other medical systems around the nation, including Boston Medical Center and Stanford University Hospital in California. However, there are still plenty who have reservations about such a system. Some believe that medical malpractice lawsuits force doctors to be more accountable for their actions and thus improves patient safety.

For more on this open approach, see this article. What do you think? If your doctor apologized to you for a medical mistake, would it comfort or upset you? Do you think an apology would discourage you from filing a lawsuit?