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Hospitals are taking an apologetic approach to medical errors

In most cases of alleged malpractice, hospitals and doctors are generally advised to say nothing to the patient or their loved ones. This common approach can be motivated by caution and fear of potential lawsuits.

What if hospitals and doctors own up to their mistakes? If they apologize for medical mistakes will it help diffuse the situation? Or will it result in more malpractice lawsuits?

The traditional "deny and defend" approach to malpractice cases can result in high costs, lack of transparency and perpetuation of medical errors. Instead, the development of new methods, some hospitals attempt to avoid malpractice litigation by offering victims prompt disclosure of the situation, an apology and compensation for mistakes.

A program called Communication and Optimal Resolution, or CANDOR, began at the University of Michigan. It has been tested in 14 hospitals around the country and is being promoted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Results so far have been positive, with the number of lawsuits in Michigan cut nearly in half and the hospital system saving $2 million in litigation costs within the first year.

Similar programs have launched at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stanford and by a group of eight hospitals and clinics in Massachusetts. But many hospitals and insurance companies feel the benefits of this approach do not outweigh the risk of litigation. Patients do not necessarily have to accept the apology or the offer of compensation, and still may decide to sue.

This approach also doesn't suggest that hospitals should pay out in all situations, particularly if there is no proof or injury or little proof that injuries were caused by an error. Hospitals should always use caution when approaching malpractice accusations. The best way to do so is with help from an experienced malpractice defense attorney.

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