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Can you use a doctor’s apology as evidence in a malpractice suit?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

There used to be a time when many doctors were afraid to say words of comfort to a patient or their family that even resembled an apology for something that went wrong out of fear of a medical malpractice suit. Ironically, studies have shown that in many instances, people are less likely to take legal action against a doctor who has taken some responsibility for missing something or making a mistake and expressed their regret.

In an effort to improve doctor-patient relationships and perhaps minimize litigation, many states have enacted some form of what’s commonly called an “apology law.”  In some states, these laws prohibit patients from using general expressions of remorse or regret by a doctor as evidence in a malpractice case. If a doctor admits to and apologizes for doing something wrong, however, this can be used against them.

How does Ohio law regarding apologies differ from many other states?

In other states, including Ohio, the law states that plaintiffs can’t use even a direct apology by the doctor for a negative outcome in a malpractice claim. That doesn’t mean that doctors are going around apologizing for their errors and negligence with no fear of repercussions. An apology, especially if it’s specific, can lead potential plaintiffs to all kinds of other information that can be used against the doctor, hospital and anyone else who might be at fault if a patient has suffered harm.

That’s one reason why it’s crucial to listen to everything your or a loved one’s medical team says to you after something goes wrong. That can be difficult if you’re angry and upset about the situation. However, it can lead you to evidence that can be used to seek justice and compensation. It’s also a good idea to get some legal guidance as soon as possible if you believe you may have a medical malpractice claim.