In an effort to reform Medical Liability, Massachusetts has created what they call the “Road Map to Reform,’’ The purpose of this plan is for doctors and nurses to fully disclose mistakes to patients and apologize. In addition, anyone, including patients or family members, can report a suspected error. At that point the hospital will investigate the situation and determine if the medical staff or the hospital was at fault. If they determine they were at fault, they will apologize and work with their malpractice insurers to determine the amount of compensation. Patients who accept the financial settlement surrender their right to sue, but those who decline the settlement can pursue legal action. On average in Massachusetts it takes 5 1/2 years for patients to be awarded money in the traditional litigation system, so this also creates a way for patients to receive financial compensation for their injuries earlier than the traditional litigation system.
This effort will first be tested out in 7 hospitals before implementing it statewide. The purpose of the program is to increase reporting of medical mistakes and cut down on lengthy litigation that they believe drives up health care costs.
Similar programs have been implemented in other states, and have been successful in decreasing the number of malpractice claims in addition to a decreasing the cost of medical liability insurance.
It is good ethical practice for health care workers to acknowledge their mistakes and apologize. These types of programs may be a way to improve that practice, decrease litigation and help the injured party receive compensation earlier than in the traditional programs.
More information can be found in this recent article:
Kowalczyk, L. Massachusetts Hospitals Promise Openness, Apologies. The Boston Globe. Available at: http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/04/18/mass-hospitals-promise-openness-apologies/z7HH8c8J1aPUf2d4lYggvM/story.html