Ontario 'Sorry' law will make it easier to apologize to parents

Any hospital trying to push the envelope as carefully and considerately and with the best research backed proceedures possible will nonetheless inevitably see mistakes happen. The patient safety reps can reel off the stats on how many dosage or equipment mistakes occur that contribute to deterioriation and death. They can also talk about the strategies in place to avoid mistakes, including effective partnership with parents. This is not controversial. What is more controversial is how the hospital responds. A little while ago I heard a woman describe how a doctor overdosed her partner during an operation. The doctor came to her with tears in his eyes, not only saying I am sorry, but asking how she wanted him to proceed. This doctor was big enough to see not a lawsuit but an immediate need for open communication and empathy and an apology.

For all parents and staff who agree that staff fears of lawsuits create very difficult working conditions, Ontario's new 'Sorry' law could be a giant leap for family-centred resolution of adverse events. The law makes it possible for individuals or institutions to apologize without the apology being construed as evidence of liability in a future legal dispute. The article quotes The Lawyers Weekly analysis of B.C legislation: "Evidence generated on American and Australian doctor’s apologies show improved patient satisfaction, a decrease in repeat errors and reduced cost and frequency of malpractice settlements."

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