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5 Reasons NOT to Apologize After a Medical Mistake


Does the cost really outweigh the benefit to apologize once a mistake has been made? This article will go over 5 major costs one shouldn't forget before apologizing after a medical mistake.

Conventional wisdom used to be to not apologize after making a medical mistake. However, as more and more physicians stopped being defensive, fearful, or arrogant and started being humble and brave by apologizing for their mistakes, more evidence is available detailing the benefits and costs of saying sorry.

What are those costs? Does the cost really outweigh the benefit to apologize once a mistake has been made? This article will go over five major costs one shouldn't forget before apologizing after a medical mistake.

5. Disclosing and apologizing for a mistake will take away from your time interfacing with the law. Who doesn't enjoy exploring the judicial system, corresponding and meeting with lawyers, and spending time going to court? A university medical center health system implemented a

and found that the time from claim reporting to resolution decreased by 30% compared to the prior typical deny-or-defend paradigm.

disclosure-with-offer program

Be weary of disclosing mistakes and the time you will miss with lawyers, judges, and juries.

4. Disclosing an error can sometimes lead to

, which will result in less "character-building" error-related experiences for future generations. By apologizing and including a plan for protecting future patients from similar mistakes, others may miss out. This is an era of protecting to-be-physicians (by not allowing surgeons to throw instruments at under-performing medical students, and limiting residents to 80 hours of work per week) and protecting patients (by using evidence-based medicine as opposed to expert-driven medicine like the good old days of mercury chloride).

systems-level improvement

With all this extra protection, be careful apologizing for an error and over-protecting upcoming generations from unforgettable life experiences accompanying medical errors.

3. Apologies

, which could keep money away from hard-working lawyers. A veteran's hospital study reported on liability claims in the 90's that a local settlement cost on average $35,000, whereas for court judgments, the cost averaged

. That is hundred's of thousands of dollars potentially withheld from juris doctorate degree holders and their support staff. Before apologizing, think of the lawyers.

increase the chance of settlement$720,000

2. Patient

y. Do you really want to sustain the physician-patient relationship with friends, relatives, or acquaintances of a patient that experienced a mistake? Think about that before apologizing.

trust could be preserved with an apolog

1. Ego. Never mind doing the right and ethical thing with its accompanying relief of conscious--apologizing can be a big blow to your ego. After all, "to err is human" doesn't apply to doctors, right?

What other costs could you foresee by saying sorry? Email me at doc.mclarson@gmail com.

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