How a Doctor’s Apology Can Affect a Kentucky Medical Malpractice Claim

Overall, human beings are sympathetic to someone who has been injured, especially if we have a relationship with the person, whether personal or professional. However, in a patient/medical professional relationship, if the patient has been injured during a medical procedure, this sympathy may not be expressed by the medical provider out of fear of appearing to take responsibility for the injury. This withholding of compassion may seem out of character for someone who has supposedly dedicated his life to helping others, and it is in most cases. But many insurance companies and attorneys who represent medical providers discourage them from saying anything to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Many states have enacted laws, sometimes called “I’m sorry laws,” to help remedy this situation. In these states, any type of expression of sympathy or admission of responsibility from a medical professional cannot be admitted as evidence in a medical malpractice case. Ohio enacted one such law in 2004, and it was recently tested by a case that went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The case involved a woman who went for a gall bladder procedure in 2001 and ended up in the hospital again three weeks later with a cut bile duct. Her doctor allegedly told her he took “full responsibility” for her injuries as she was being transferred to another facility. The victim and her husband filed a medical malpractice claim in 2007. The judge originally found in favor of the doctor, then and Appeals Court overturned the judge’s decision, saying the doctor’s statements should be admissible. But when the case went to the Ohio Supreme Court, justices overturned the Appeals Court decision, saying the doctor’s words of sympathy couldn’t be included as evidence because the law was enacted in 2004 and the couple didn’t file suit until 2007.

Kentucky does not have an “I’m sorry” law, but that does not mean that doctors here are never apologizing for their mistakes. In fact, at Lexington’s VA Medical Center, medical providers have been admitting errors and apologizing for years. Around 1986, the center’s administration decided to be forthright with all of its patients if medical errors occurred. They felt that even if it opened them up to medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits, it was still the right thing to do. What happened as a result of their honesty surprised the whole medical community. Instead of seeing an increase in the number of medical malpractice lawsuits, they actually had fewer cases filed against them. They discovered that being upfront with those who were injured allowed them to settle cases more quickly and avoid costly medical malpractice cases.

Unfortunately, not all Kentucky medical facilities are honest when a mistake is made, so medical malpractice lawsuits are still necessary in some cases to obtain the compensation the victims and their families deserve. If you or someone you love have been injured by a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional, contact Steve Frederick, a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney, to discuss your case.


Ohio Supreme Court: Sympathetic statement by doctor not admissable in Streetsboro medical malpractice case; Streetsboro Gateway News; April 24, 2013