If it seems like more doctors are apologizing to patients and their families for their errors or negligence, it’s because they are. That’s not necessarily because doctors feel a greater sense of personal responsibility than they used to. Many states across the country – including Ohio – have enacted “apology laws” that allow doctors to apologize or express sympathy or remorse for an outcome without their words being used against them in a malpractice claim.
These laws have followed multiple studies in which it was found that not only do patients feel better when their doctor acknowledges a mistake. They’re often less likely to sue them. Of course, this is true more for relatively minor errors that are repairable than those that cause significant harm. Surgical errors, for example, are an exception to those findings.
Some of these laws offer more protection to doctors than others. A number of states have laws that protect doctors from having general expressions of regret or apology used as evidence against them. However, outright admissions of fault can be.
What does Ohio law say?
Ohio is among the states where neither a general apology nor a specific admission of fault can be used against a medical provider in a malpractice claim. Of course, that doesn’t mean that a patient can’t still sue. There’s likely plenty of other evidence, including medical records, the observations of other medical personnel and more. Even if a doctor’s words can’t be used against them, they can lead the way to evidence that can be used. That’s why it’s crucial for patients and their families to ask questions and listen to what medical providers tell them.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a medical provider’s actions or negligence, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible.