Disclosure, apology could curb lawsuits in Massachusetts

April 10, 2011

A program in which clinicians and hospitals respond to an adverse event with facts, an appropriate apology, and timely and fair financial compensation if warranted, is a viable but uncommon tactic used in efforts to reduce healthcare costs in Massachusetts, according to a new study.

A program in which clinicians and hospitals respond to an adverse event with facts, an appropriate apology, and timely and fair financial compensation if warranted, is a viable but uncommon tactic used in efforts to reduce healthcare costs in Massachusetts, according to preliminary findings of a federally funded study.

Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Medical Society, drafted "The Roadmap for Transforming Medical Liability and Improving Patient Safety in Massachusetts." Initial findings from in-depth interviews of stakeholders in the patient safety and patient advocate community, as well as the medical, legal, and insurance systems, identified several potential barriers to changing the current system, in which the majority of cases end up litigation.

The goal is to create a system in which physicians can apologize without fear of legal consequences, and medical errors face a mandatory pre-litigation review period, according to the authors.