Doctor apology bill signed into law

By no means is anyone perfect. However, there are certain professionals that are held to a higher standard in light of the significant amount of training they received and how much society relies upon their knowledge and skills. One professional position that is clearly revered as such is that of a doctor. And in light of these high standards of deference to doctors, medical negligence cases can be quite complicated.

A recent development in Pennsylvania law focuses in on just how complex and difficult a medical malpractice case can be. The Pennsylvania Legislature passed a bill concerning doctors' apologies, which the governor shortly thereafter signed into law. The legislature recognized that some doctors might be filled with grief following a particular procedure or surgery that results in significant complications and even death of the patient.

In contrast, under the previous law, doctors feared the possible consequences that an apology to a patient and the patient's family may trigger, which could result in the filing of a lawsuit. As a result, doctors typically avoided apologies. The new apology law changes all of this. Now, doctors can apology without having their apology used against them in a negligence case.

The law is not a blanket exclusion of all doctors' statements and liability, however. Patients and their families can still pursue litigation by seeking out a medical malpractice attorney and filing a medical negligence case. In some cases, they still might be able to rely on some of a doctor's statements as evidence. For instance, if the doctor discusses particular facts or circumstances that may suggest liability, such statements will likely be admissible.

This new evidentiary standard comports with existing law. Under existing general negligence principles, there is a host of evidence that cannot be admitted at trial in light of its prejudicial effect upon the trier of fact. This evidence includes: settlement discussions, repairs made after an accident as well as a variety of other forms of evidence.

Those seeking medical attention should be aware of these new shifts in the law and carefully address any unfortunate circumstances that arise with a medical provider. Furthermore, if a patient or a loved one of a patient believe that have been affected by medical negligence, they should seek to better understand their situation so they can take appropriate actions.

Source: pennlive.com, "Doctors welcome freedom to apologize; personal injury lawyer worries it will tip the scale against patients," Oct. 22, 2013, David Wenner

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