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Massachusetts hospitals apologize for medical mistakes

A relatively new approach to addressing doctor errors is taking hold at a number of Massachusetts hospitals. The process, known as "disclosure, apology, and offer," is an attempt by hospitals to stave off medical malpractice claims that arise from doctor mistakes.

For example, a 45-year-old Massachusetts resident was told she had an aggressive form of uterine cancer after a routine polyp removal. She was devastated and distraught. Then, she received a call from the Brigham and Williams hospital informing her that her test result had been read incorrectly and that she did not have cancer. The hospital apologized for the error and offered her a financial settlement for her pain and suffering.

The hospital has adopted the new approach to amicably and quickly resolve potential future lawsuits. While, this is certainly a step in the right direction for many patients as it may limit the amount of pain and suffering endured by those who are the victims of medical error, it may not completely and fairly compensate those victims.

The victims of medical malpractice may be entitled to much more than an apology and a small financial settlement. They may in fact be entitled to past, present and future medical expenses caused by the medical error. If these victims agree to a quick financial settlement offered by the hospital, they may regret this decision as they would then forfeit the right to pursue a future claim for compensation for past, present and future medical expenses.

Therefore, such an offer should be carefully considered with the help of an attorney prior to acceptance to ensure it will adequately meet the needs of a patient injured through no fault of their own.

Source: Boston.com, "Mass. Hospitals urged to apologize, settle," Liz Kowalcyzk, May 27, 2012

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