Massachusetts Physicians, Attorneys Praise Apology-Condoning Malpractice Program
Massachusetts' new healthcare law is changing the way medical malpractice lawsuits are handled in an effort to bring down healthcare costs — a strategy hailed by the state's major physician and attorney groups alike.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Bar Association and Massachusetts Association of Trial Attorneys agreed upon language included in the bill — which was signed by Gov. Deval Patrick Aug. 6 — after years of exchange. The law includes specific language facilitating the approach of a program known as "Disclosure, Apology and Offer."
Under the DA&O model, providers, institutions and payors disclose unanticipated adverse outcomes with patients. They then investigate what happened and establish systems to prevent future occurrences. Providers can also apologize and offer fair financial compensation, when appropriate, so the patient does not have to resort to legal action.
The bill also includes language for a six-month, pre-litigation resolution period that affords providers and patients time to go through the DA&O process. It also allows statements of apology by providers to be inadmissible in court.
Editor's note: This article was amended August 16 to correct a typographic error in the last sentence that said apologies were admissable in court. Apologies are inadmissable under the law. We apologize for the error.
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