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If after months of pain and suffering you found out that your doctor had misdiagnosed an illness, would an apology keep you from filing a medical malpractice claim?   That is the question a new Pennsylvania (PA) state law which goes into effect next week hopes to achieve.  The new law allows physicians to apologize for medical mistakes, without the fear their apology could be used against them in a medical malpractice case.

To illustrate the point a woman who suffered misdiagnosis said if her physician would have apologized, after failing to diagnose her painful kidney stones for months she would have considered it.  The woman said she complained of severe stomach and back pain over a period of nine months to her physician.  Sometimes, the pain was so bad she said she would cry, but the physician “would act as if I was a baby.”  Finally, a scan showed the source of her pain was a kidney stone. An operation found she actually had a number of kidney stones, which had been there for some time.  She said, “I never got any type of apology from him and I am now fact considered suing for malpractice,”

Fortunately the law will not protect a physician who actually has harmed a patient from being sued and the law also applies to nursing home staff and administrators.  But the hopes are that the law can lead to better relationships between physicians and patients, which ultimately can lead to fewer malpractice lawsuits.

The Virginia (VA) medical malpractice lawyers at Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton and Favaloro have experience with medical misdiagnosis.  We had a client that was misdiagnosed by an emergency room physician.   Our client reported to the emergency room complaining of headaches for the past eight days, nausea, vomiting, neck pain and sensitivity to bright lights.  The emergency room doctor evaluated him, obtained a sample of his spinal fluid and wrongly decided that our client was suffering from viral meningitis.  He was ultimately diagnosed with fungal (cryptococcal) meningitis.  This disease resulted in severe neurological injuries to our client who is now permanently disabled. The case settled in mediation for $650,000.00.

So in the end if a doctor apologizes for a mistake before critical damage is done to the patient it may prevent medical malpractice suits.  However is the doctor is grossly negligent and causes harm to the patient no amount of apologizing may help.


One Comment

  1. Mike Bryant

    Taking care of the person, great idea. It will cut claims and make people feel somewhat better.

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