Medical apologies: Patient and physician perspectives

When you seek medical treatment at an Indiana doctor's office, hospital or outpatient facility, you have the right to reasonably expect that those to whom you have entrusted your health will act according to accepted safety standards and state regulations that govern medical care. You understand that doctors are human beings who are capable of error. However, wouldn't you expect a doctor who makes an error regarding your health to at least apologize for his or her mistake?  

Many Indiana medical patients who suffered injury because of medical negligence have filed lawsuits against those deemed liable. A majority of them say their primary motivation was to try to make sure that such incidents did not happen again to other medical patients. Many doctors say they are hesitant to admit their mistakes, much less to apologize, because they think it might adversely affect their careers.  

Do you agree with patients who say these things? 

Like most Indiana medical patients, you may be quite concerned about understanding whatever type of procedure or treatment you are receiving from a licensed medical professional. It is only natural to want to know and understand what is happening with your health. The following list shows statements patients often make when explaining why they think doctors should apologize for their mistakes:  

  • Many patients say that to keep repeat incidents from occurring, it is essential for doctors to admit when their own errors have caused injury to patients. 
  • Most patients say they expect doctors and other medical professionals to not only acknowledge their mistakes but to apologize for them, either verbally or in writing. 
  • Patients often say that their doctors' willingness or unwillingness to apologize for errors greatly influences their decisions whether or not to seek legal accountability against them.  

It is highly important for your doctor to discuss ahead of time any medical procedure you plan to have so that you understand what is going to occur and also so that he or she can inform you of any known risks involved in the procedure. You may think it is equally important for your doctor to admit that he or she was the cause of something gone wrong.  

What doctors say 

The following issues reportedly influence doctors' decisions when they are deciding whether or not to admit their mistakes or offer apologies to patients: 

  • Many doctors say they fear that word will get out and patients will no longer trust them if they admit their mistakes or apologize for them. 
  • Doctors also say they worry how open apologies for medical errors will affect their reputations among their colleagues. 
  • Some doctor say they only apologize or admit their errors if patients file lawsuits against them.  

If you suffer injury because of medical negligence, you may face a long and arduous recovery. In fact, serious medical injuries often result in partial or full, permanent disabilities. There is no reason you should have to bear the full financial burden that may be associated with your doctor's error. Whether or not you receive an apology, you are entitled to seek compensation for the damages you have suffered. 

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