The threat of lawsuits has a chilling effect on open communications among doctors, nurses and patients when something goes wrong.
New legislation passed in Pennsylvania’s House would make it easier for health-care providers to apologize or express compassion when things don’t go as expected. The legislation would make those statements inadmissible in court cases.
Jim Redmond from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said that paves the way for a simple conversation: “Here’s what went wrong, here is how we can fix it, and here is also what we can do to make sure that it doesn’t happen to other patients.”
Health-care providers said the legislation would cut down on malpractice suits since patients often seek legal counsel in an effort to find out what went wrong.
Mary Ellen Mannix, an advocate for patient safety whose infant son died because of a medical error, said the legislation does not get to the core of the issue.
“It’s a waste of time, you are wasting legislators’ time, you are wasting physicians’ time in thinking that this is something they should really be advocating for,” said Mannix. “What they should be advocating for is that more information that is pertinent to their job is being passed along to them.”
Mannix said policy should focus on dealing with avoiding medical errors, rather than legislating the aftermath.
The bill has yet to pass in Pennsylvania’s Senate.