Saying “I’m sorry” and taking responsibility for mistakes are two things that our mothers have taught us from a very early age. When we see someone that feels bad, or isn’t having a good day, we almost naturally want to apologize to them and show that we empathize with them. When we screw something up, we’re supposed to own our mistakes and apologize and learn from them.
However, in some industries and in some states, employees and managers have been coached into not apologizing no matter what the circumstances. This practice is especially common in the health care industry where law suits and malpractice suits are an ever-looming threat. They feel that apologies can be misconstrued as an admission of guilt rather than one of empathy. So doctors are forced to choose self-preservation rather than show empathy for their patients when something goes wrong.
According to the website Sorry Works! (http://www.sorryworks.net/apology-laws-cms-143):
Thirty-six states have “apology laws” which prohibit certain statements, expressions, or other evidence related to disclosure from being admissible in a lawsuit. Most states simply cover expressions of empathy or sympathy, while a few states go further and protect admissions of fault. Contact your attorney for a correct interpretation of your state’s statutes.
In these states, you can freely apologize to someone without having to fear that it will be turned on you in a lawsuit and used as an admission of guilt.
This is giving many health care professionals the ability to be human beings again!
What are the heads of the Medical Community saying?
According to the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics:
“It is a fundamental ethical requirement that a physician should at all times deal honestly and openly with patients. … Concern regarding legal liability which might result following truthful disclosure should not affect the physician’s honesty with a patient.”
The code goes on to suggest that “in the wake of a medical error, patients have a right to know what happened.”
Other institutions have similar language written into their code, including: The American College of Physicians, the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Board of Directors, and even the Joint Commission requires institutions to have a process in place to inform patients and their families of unexpected outcomes of medical procedures.
Why should you apologize?
There have been a multitude of studies done concerning the effects of the simple apology. Not surprisingly, there are clear psychological, emotional, and even financial benefits. While our mother’s taught us to readily accept responsibility and apologize, they also taught us to receive apologies with grace and dignity and forgive the offender.
We naturally want to reach closure and find forgiveness. If this can be done outside a courtroom, then the entire encounter is less damaging to everyone involved.
Which states have Apology Protection Laws?
As of August 18, 2015 when this article was written, the states with apology protection laws already on the books include:
|Arizona||Ariz Rev Stat §12-2605||http://www.azleg.gov/ars/12/02605.htm|
|California||Cal Evid Code §1160||http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=EVID&division=9.&title=&part=&chapter=3.&article=|
|Colorado||Colo Rev Stat Ann §13-25-135||http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/sl2003a/sl_126.htm|
|Connecticut||Conn Gen Stat Ann §52-184d||http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/pub/chap899.htm#Sec52-184d.htm|
|Delaware||Del Code Ann tit 10. §4318||http://delcode.delaware.gov/title10/c043/sc01/index.shtml|
|District of Columbia||DC Code §16-2841||http://newsroom.dc.gov/file.aspx/release/13210/02%20DC%20Acts%20Part%201.pdf|
|Florida||Fla Stat §90.4026||http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/90.4026|
|Georgia||Ga Code Ann §24-3-37.1||http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/search/sb3.htm|
|Hawaii||Haw Rev Stat §626-1, Rule 409.5||www2.hawaii.edu/~barkai/e/HRE.DOC|
|Idaho||Idaho Code Ann §9-207||http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title9/T9CH2SECT9-207.htm|
|Illinois||Ill Comp Stat §5/8-1901||http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=073500050K8-1901-|
|Indiana||Ind Code §34-43.5-1-1||http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title34/ar43.5/ch1.html#IC34-43.5-|
|Iowa||Iowa Code §622.31||http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/cool-ice/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=iowacode&ga=83&input=622#62|
|Louisiana||La Rev Stat Ann §13:3715.5||http://legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=77558|
|Maine||Me Rev Stat Ann tit. 24 §2907||http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/24/title24sec2907.html|
|Maryland||Md Code Ann, Cts & Jud Proc §10-920||mlis.state.md.us/2005rs/bills/hb/hb0114f.pdf|
|Massachusetts||Mass Gen Laws Ann ch 233 23D||http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIII/TitleII/Chapter233/Section23D|
|Missouri||Mo Rev Stat §538.229||http://www.omagdigital.com/article/Disclosing_Medical_Errors_In_Missouri%3A_How_To_Say_%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m_Sorry%E2%80%9D/552788/52688/article.html|
|Montana||Mont Code Ann §26-1-814||http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/26/1/26-1-814.htm|
|Nebraska||Neb Rev Stat §27-1201||http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=27-1201|
|New Hampshire||NH Rev Stat Ann §507-E:4||http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/LII/507-E/507-E-4.htm|
|North Carolina||NC Gen Stat §8C-1, Rule 413||http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_8C/GS_8C-413.html|
|North Dakota||ND Cent Code §31-04-12||http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/60-2007/session-laws/documents/JPROF.pdf#CHAPTER284|
|Ohio||Ohio Rev Code Ann §2317.43||http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2317.43|
|Oklahoma||Okla Stat tit 63 §1-1708.1 H||http://law.justia.com/codes/oklahoma/2006/os63.html|
|Oregon||Or Rev Stat §677.082||http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/677.082|
|South Carolina||SC Code Ann §19-1-190||http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t19c001.php|
|South Dakota||SD Codified Laws §19-12-14||http://legis.state.sd.us/statutes/DisplayStatute.aspx?Statute=19-12-14&Type=Statute|
|Tennessee||Tenn Code Ann §409.1||http://www.tncourts.gov/rules/rules-evidence/4091|
|Texas||Tex Rev Civ Prac & Rem Code Ann §18.061||http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/CP/htm/CP.18.htm|
|Utah||Utah Rules of Evidence, Rule 409||http://www.utcourts.gov/resources/rules/ure/0409.htm|
|Vermont||Vt Stat Ann tit 12 §1912||http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=12&Chapter=081&Section=01912|
|Virginia||Va Code Ann §8.01-581.20:1||http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-581.20C1|
|Washington||Wash Rev Code Ann §5.64.010||http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=5.64.010|
|West Virginia||W Va Code §55-7-11a||http://www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=55&art=7§ion=11A#07|
|Wyoming||Wyo Stat Ann §1-1-130||http://draylaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Click-Here.pdf|
Several other states have legislation pending.