They say that to err is human, to forgive divine. But somewhere in the rocky terrain between error and forgiveness lies the apology–the essential act that facilitates forgiveness and produces closure.
Increasingly hospitals are discovering that apologies, coupled with full disclosure, may be in fact be the best prescription for reducing malpractice claims and liability costs, implementing policies that encourage physicians to apologize to patients for medical errors.
Today’s Boston Globe editorial pages feature an op-ed piece entitled “When doctors say they’re sorry“, by Doug Wojcieszak, a spokesperson for the Sorry Works! Coalition, an organization committed to educating physicians, patients and their families, hospital administrators, insurance companies, attorneys, and others about the numerous benefits an apology can confer for all the stakeholders in issues involving the provision of medical care.
Such policies typically provide for an investigation to determine whether standards of medical care were followed, and utilize a combination of apology; full disclosure of medical records, information and facts to patients and their families; and the offer of compensation if an investigation has determined that standards of medical care were not met. Such policies, which seek to create partnerships between medical caregivers and patients in resolving problems arising out of medical accidents, are premised upon honesty, trust, accountability, and communication.
For further information, visit the web site for Sorry Works!, where numerous materials, links and resources are available regarding apology policies. (ADR practitioners take note: the web site includes a link to information on a healthcare ombuds and mediation program.)