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Bill will allow doctors to say ‘I’m sorry’

October 22, 2013 News Extra

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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers are giving doctors and other health care professionals wider latitude to apologize or offer expressions of grief without it coming back to haunt them in civil litigation.

The state House voted unanimously on Tuesday to send to Gov. Tom Corbett a bill that immunizes medical professionals from the negative consequences of what it describes as “benevolent gestures.”

The president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society said the legislation will help improve communication with patients.

“Medicine is not an exact science, and outcomes may be unpredictable,” said Dr. C. Richard Schott, a suburban Philadelphia cardiologist. “Benevolent gestures are always appropriate and physicians should not have to fear giving them.”

The protections will not apply if the apology or other gesture includes an acknowledgement of negligence or fault.

The goal is to cut down on medical malpractice lawsuits, and supporters said 29 states have passed immunity from apology legislation.

Corbett’s office said Tuesday he intended to sign it.

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