Serving Chiropractors and Their Patients

It Is now OK to Say: “I’m Sorry” to Patients

Although apologies are common place to many during various times in our lives, it could have gotten a Wisconsin doctor into malpractice “quicksand”… until just recently.  Now, there is a new law in Wisconsin which generally allows a health care provider to apologize to an injured patient without fear that the apology can or will be used against them in any subsequent lawsuit.  In the past, doctors were often reluctant to show any remorse to a patient in fear that such a statement could be used as a negative admission in any malpractice claim.

In April 2014, this state adopted a law which is now codified into the evidentiary section of the statutes (Wis Stats. 904.14) which ensures that a provider’s statements or gestures of compassion, fault, liablity, remorse, or responsibility to a patient or patient’s relative remains inadmissable as evidence of liablity or as an admission against interest.  This preclusion from evidence applies to a wide variety of situations including civil actions, administrative hearings, disciplinary hearings, and mediation type proceedings.  However, it is noteworthy that the law applies only to such statements or gestures made BEFORE the commencement of such a proceeding.

The percieved benefits of the new law include a reduction in the number of malpractice lawsuits and goal of insuring that doctors are only subject to liablity based exclusively on deviations from the standard of care and not purely upon statements to patients or families.  It is felt that these type of frank discussions after a poor treatment outcome will help to restore patient-provider trust.  Even though this new law exists, it is recommended that chiropractors timely confer  with competant legal counsel before making such statements to their patients.  After getting the proper advice, it just may be time now to freely go ahead and make that apology.  Both the patient and the doctor may then experience the benefist, both psychologicaly and professionally, of such an honest discussion.