For many patients injured by the carelessness of medical professionals money is not the prime motivator to seek justice. Some patients simply want to hear the doctor responsible for their injuries say, “I’m sorry.”
A heartfelt apology from someone who has harmed us can have real psychological and emotional benefits. Beyond just expressing sympathy (“I understand you are in pain”), an acknowledgement by the doctor of his or her role in damaging the plaintiff’s health can make the plaintiff feel better about the situation. A frank apology generated by an honest desire to make things rightoften has benefits for both sides, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association says.
Unfortunately, doctors often remain silent, even when they know they have harmed a patient with substandard care. Fearing a malpractice suit, they may choose to say nothing to the patient, leaving them in the dark and feeling like their health is unimportant to the provider.
In some states, state legislators have attempted to deal with this by passing “apology laws,” in which a statement of apology from a doctor or health care official to a patient cannot be used as evidence in a malpractice suit. California is one of many states with some form of apology law in place.
Every medical malpractice case is unique, and each victim is likely to enter into litigation with different priorities. While it is a common and understandable goal to be compensated for damages, other goals may include learning just how such as terrible mistake could have occurred. Oftentimes patients want, more than anything, to have their feelings acknowledged by the party that caused them harm, and receive an apology.