Saying “I’m sorry” to a patient shouldn’t hurt your career.
This, essentially, is the primary directive of apology laws or statutes across the country: to stop a patient from using an apology from a medical provider against them in a court of law as grounds for a malpractice suit.
The idea is to grow a more honest and open conversation between patient and doctor, and to ensure that the patient has all the information possible about their medical care.
In some states, Florida included, the law is taken a step farther, requiring medical care professionals to not only inform their patients of all incidents that resulted in their harm but also to do so in person.
What Are the Apology Laws by State?
Not all states have apology laws, but Florida does.
Florida Statute 90.4026 states that an expression of condolences or sympathy by a medical professional should not be used as grounds for a malpractice suit.
This law means that it’s okay for a doctor to empathize with a patient when they experience a negative outcome after medical care or intervention. They can say, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” without that statement constituting an admission of guilt in a court of law.
However, Florida makes it clear that if a “benevolent gesture” is accompanied by an admission of wrongdoing or fault then that statement in its entirety can be used in a malpractice suit.
Additionally, while the Florida Statute does not require a doctor to apologize or express sympathy or condolences, it does require them to report to the patient any level of harm that resulted from medical treatment.
For example, if internal sutures during a surgery were not done correctly and caused internal bleeding, the doctor would be required to let the patient know rather than just ignore the situation.
When Would the Apology Law Come Into Play?
If a doctor discovers after the fact that there was more information available about the patient’s condition and that information would have altered their choices, the doctor might apologize to the patient for the choices they made medically that resulted in harm to the patient. If that apology comes with an admission of wrongdoing, then that apology would be admissible in court as evidence supporting the patient’s case.
However, if that apology did not include an admission of fault, the patient will be required to depend on other evidence of malpractice if they believe that malpractice or negligence was indeed the cause of harm.
How Does the Apology Law Impact You?
If you are dealing with the apology law in a malpractice suit, reach out to the Florida Healthcare Law Firm for assistance. We can help you address the situation and move toward a speedy resolution. Call now.