Medical malpractices are serious issues affecting healthcare in the United States. Medical malpractice is defined as “any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient (Brown et al., 2019).” Medical malpractice in tort law deals with professional negligence, and patients or families can sue healthcare professionals in case of malpractice. Besides, studies show that lawsuits occur when the parties involved want answers or apologies. Therefore, several research studies acknowledge the role of error recognition and apology in resolving malpractice claims and preventing litigation (Atkinson Smith, 2020). This research paper will address the current state of malpractice in healthcare, how healthcare workers react to and defend against charges of malpractice, and recognize the role of admitting fault and apologizing in settling malpractice claims.
According to Hill & Ryu (2019), medical errors in health facilities were the third leading cause of preventable death in 2016. Approximately two hundred and fifty people die annually due to such errors. This is higher than the deaths caused by accidents, stroke, or Alzheimer’s. In addition, studies found that the yearly cost of medical malpractice is approximately $55.6 billion. $45.6 billion is spent on defensive medicine, which practitioners use to avoid litigation. This sum represents 2.4 percent of overall health care spending in the United States.
Hill and Ryu (2019) also state that the possibility of American doctors being sued due to alleged malpractice is high. In 2017, around 55% of U.S. physicians said they had been sued at some point in their career. Besides, malpractice suits had increased by 15% from 2013. Specialists such as surgeons and gynecologists are more likely to get sued than primary care doctors. Dermatologists and psychiatrists are the least specialists to face lawsuits.
Many physicians are usually caught off-guard and are surprised when named in a lawsuit. Furthermore, an overwhelming number said that the lawsuit against them was unwarranted. About thirty percent of the doctors claimed that their lawsuit was settled before trial. Patients sued mainly due to the following reasons: failure to detect a patient’s ailment or a delayed diagnosis, problems associated with therapy or surgery, and poor outcome/disease progression (Atkinson Smith, 2020). The money paid to the patients can be substantial, with some plaintiffs receiving $500000 up to $1 million.
How healthcare professionals respond to and defend against allegations of malpractice
To err is human, and medical practitioners are not immune to making mistakes. Some mistakes can cost lives or result in longer hospitalization, among others. Healthcare practitioners usually have two decisions to make once an error is committed (Loue, 2020). The first response is to keep quiet and not say anything about the error. Medical insurers and attorneys prefer this response since, in many states, an error can be used as admission to create legal liability in formal litigation (Nasiripour et al., 2018). Due to such issues, some healthcare practitioners do not disclose their errors to the patient. The second response is to disclose the error and apologies to the affected patient or family. Disclosing and apologizing for an error committed can help prevent litigation of the healthcare professional.
Healthcare professionals have several ways to defend themselves against an allegation of malpractice. The physician may argue that the plaintiff is not qualified to give sufficient information in the medical field since they are not experts in the area. Besides, the physician can use the ‘Good Samaritan’ laws in many states, which protect them from civil liabilities when caring for patients. This is because they mean good to the patients, but sometimes things do not work out well, and the physician may argue that they were not in control of such issues (Fields et al., 2020). Healthcare professionals may invoke many laws to defend themselves from litigation. However, it is essential to maintain patients’ trust in them. Therefore, they should involve alternative resolutions to any malpractice lawsuits against them.
The role of recognition of error and apology in resolving malpractice claims
Numerous studies demonstrate the value of openness and apology in settling malpractice claims and averting litigation. Certain states are increasingly advocating for the use of malpractice apologies to address the problem. Physicians may apologize for a medical mistake. Apologies are comments that admit to making a mistake and its repercussions, accept responsibility and express remorse for causing damage (Nasiripour et al., 2018). They have been shown to reduce blame, raise rage, build trust, and strengthen relationships (Mason, 2021). Additionally, apologies can reduce the likelihood of medical malpractice litigation and may aid in the resolution of patient claims.
Patients, of course, are concerned about the adverse effects of medical therapy, especially adverse effects caused by medical mistakes. Patients exhibit a want to comprehend what occurred to them, to get an apology, and to avoid such errors in the future (Loue, 2020). When the physician acknowledged accountability for the error, apologized, and made specific measures to prevent repetition, clients were less likely to seek legal services (Brown et al., 2019). Furthermore, experimental research in a non-medical environment has shown that when injured persons get an apology, they are more likely to embrace a negotiation attitude that boosts their odds of resolution and are more inclined to accept a particular settlement offer.
Medical errors also impact healthcare practitioners. They experience guilt, anxiety, and loss of self-trust. They also get worried about how their patients and workmates perceive them after such incidences (Fields et al., 2020). Indeed, clinicians describe the “sickening feeling that one is about to make a catastrophic error” and the terror that follow such realizations. When a physician makes a mistake, many wish to apologize to the patient (Choi et al., 2019). This kind of disclosure and apology help prevent future instances of medical negligence.
From the biblical perceptive, James 5:26 states, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” This verse encourages disclosure and apologies. It heals both parties once someone has owned to their error and apologies for it (Loue, 2020). It is morally good for a healthcare practitioner to issue an apology for it will remove their guilt and boost their confidence (Mason, 2021).
Doctors face several challenges despite the advantages of disclosing and apologizing, including the threat of lawsuits based on their apology and disclosure. Certain states reduce this obstacle by establishing legislation that allows for uninsured malpractice apologies. Some doctors believe that admitting wrongdoing is humiliating (Choi et al., 2019). Finally, many doctors may avoid participating in such interactions due to a lack of confidence and expertise in admitting and apologizing for mistakes (Brown et al., 2019).
Disclosure and apologies can help in solving malpractice claims without litigation. It also helps in reducing further cases of medication errors. The scripture also supports and acknowledges the benefits of issuing apologies for both parties to heal. Therefore, medical practitioners should practice the act of issuing an apology once an error has been made.
Atkinson Smith, M. (2020). I’m Sorry: Laws That Support Apologies in Health Care. Professional Case Management, 25(1), 40–45. https://doi.org/10.1097/ncm.0000000000000410
Brown, S. D., Bruno, M. A., Shyu, J. Y., Eisenberg, R., Abujudeh, H., Norbash, A., & Gallagher, T. H. (2019). Error Disclosure and Apology in Radiology: The Case for Further Dialogue. Radiology, 293(1), 30–35. https://doi.org/10.1148/radiol.2019190126
Choi, E. Y., Pyo, J., Ock, M., & Lee, S. I. (2019). Nurses’ Perceptions Regarding Disclosure of Patient Safety Incidents in Korea: A Qualitative Study. Asian Nursing Research, 13(3), 200–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anr.2019.05.002
Fields, A. C., Mello, M. M., & Kachalia, A. (2020). Apology laws and malpractice liability: what have we learned? BMJ Quality & Safety, 30(1), 64–67. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2020-010955
Hill, G. Q., & Ryu, R. K. (2019). A Primer to Understanding the Elements of Medical Malpractice. Seminars in Interventional Radiology, 36(02), 117–119. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0039-1688425
Loue, S. (2020). Medical Error: Truthtelling, Apology, and Forgiveness. Case Studies in Society, Religion, and Bioethics, 73–101. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44150-0_4
Mason, J. (2021). Confessional Approach to Disclosure of Medical Error. Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality, 27(2), 203–222. https://doi.org/10.1093/cb/cbab006
Nasiripour, A., Raiessi, P., & Jafari, M. (2018). Medical Errors Disclosure: Is It Good or Bad? Hospital Practices and Research, 3(1), 16–21. https://doi.org/10.15171/hpr.2018.04