Healthcare professionals are held to a very high standard. People expect them to be diligent in all that they do, but they are human like everyone else. They work very long shifts and sometimes let their personal biases affect how they treat people. They can make mistakes and oversights, some of which can negatively impact a patient’s treatment. They might reach the wrong diagnostic conclusion or do something inappropriate during the surgery that affects someone’s rate of recovery.
Patients experiencing the negative consequences of a medical mistake often want the professionals involved in their care to take responsibility for their failings. Is it possible for a doctor or other health care professional in West Virginia to apologize to someone after making a mistake?
The law protects medical apologies
In some states, a healthcare provider expressing their condolences or apologizing to a patient might put them at risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit. In such states, employers and insurance providers typically train doctors and other professionals not to apologize even when it is clear that they have made mistakes.
The law in West Virginia extends legal protection to healthcare providers who express condolences after a patient dies to their surviving family members or who apologize directly to a patient negatively impacted by medical mistakes or unprofessional care standards. Despite the theoretical ability to do so, many physicians and others tasked with patient care will still go to great lengths to avoid ever apologizing to the patients in their care.
Even when they do apologize, they may follow their verbal apology with a request for the patient to sign paperwork that would absolve the doctor or their employer of any responsibility they may have for the patient’s increased costs or worse condition. Patients harmed by negligence or unprofessional care standards may want to seek justice not in the form of an apology but via financial compensation for the practical implications of a healthcare provider’s failings on their health and finances.
Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit can offer justice more effectively than simply demanding an apology from a physician or other professional who made a major mistake. Seeking legal guidance can help a patient to explore their rights and options under the law.