Legislation: Docs should be able to say ‘sorry’

Posted 1/26/12

PROVIDENCE – A state representative wants it to be OK for a doctor or other health care provider to say “sorry” without the threat of legal repercussions hanging over their heads.

“Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is most often a way to express compassion or sympathy to another individual,” said Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, D-Warwick. “Unfortunately, in a world where almost anything can lead to litigation, showing sympathy can be seen as an admission of error, especially in a health care setting.”

McNamara introduced legislation, 2012-H 7172, Thursday declaring expressions of sympathy, condolence, compassion or a general sense of benevolence “relating to the pain, suffering or death of a patient in connection with or relating to the patient’s condition or the outcome of such patient’s medical care and treatment” as inadmissible as evidence in a civil suit.

It would cover statements and writings of a health care provider to a patient or to the patient’s family or representative. The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

“The health care professionals that I know are caring people and want to be considerate of and forthcoming with their patient and the family,” said McNamara. “But they often have to prevent themselves from showing compassion because of the potential for legal action against them. That should not have to happen.”

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