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New Massachusetts law requires doctors to disclose mistakes

Massachusetts has just passed major new legislation that is supported by both physicians and attorneys. This new law represents a unique approach to the handling of medical malpractice claims. The new approach, which is now law, has begun to be used in some Massachusetts hospitals. Under the new law, any doctor mistakes must be disclosed to the patients and doctors are allowed to actually apologize for their errors without facing lawsuits for those admissions.

It is expected that this change in the current law will go a long way in improving patient safety in the future. The expectation is that doctors will now be much more willing to admit their mistakes in order to prevent the same mistakes from being made in the future.

This law provides for a 182 day "cooling off" period where both the doctor and the patient, the victim of medical negligence, exchange information in an effort to reach a settlement without litigation. It is anticipated that this new change will allow cases to settle more quickly than in the past.

Additionally, the legislation provides that those who are victims of hospital negligence in a non-profit hospital will be entitled to seek a maximum compensation of $100,000 as opposed to a maximum of $20,000 under previous law.

Although this legislation is a step in the right direction, many victims of medical malpractice may be entitled to more than an apology and a small financial settlement for a doctor's mistake. They may be entitled to past, present and future medical expenses caused by the medical error, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. Therefore, the decision of whether or not to settle a particular medical malpractice claim must be made very carefully.

Source: boston.com, "New Mass. law changes malpractice procedures," Shannon Young, Aug. 14, 2012

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