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Last Friday’s New York Times Health Blog addressed the emotional toll felt by peoples that are the victims of medical malpractice. The entry, which discusses a new article and proposed documentary, states the following:

The writers, Dr. Tom Delbanco and Dr. Sigall K. Bell of the Harvard Medical School, note that while the medical community has focused largely on reducing error rates, hospitals also need to address the “human dimensions” of treatment blunders and to assist in the emotional recovery of patients and families.
The doctors, who are making a documentary film on the subject, talked to numerous patients and families affected by medical errors. The authors found that family members often feel guilty for not having protected loved ones from the caregivers’ mistakes and that many feared retribution if they did complain. And Dr. Delbanco and Dr. Bell note that physicians who err often shut out patients and their families, “isolating them just when they are most in need.”

The article eventually reached the issue of doctors saying, “I’m sorry.” What the authors found was that many patients simply wanted their physicians to reach out and discuss their errors, but physicians were unwilling to take that step and say, “I’m sorry.” Many physicians expressed a concern that such a statement would be used against them in eventual litigation. Ironically, numerous studies show that doctors issuing an apology can significantly reduce the likelihood that a medical malpractice claim will be filed.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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