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House considers doctor apologies for medical malpractice

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The Idaho House of Representatives is currently considering at bill that would allow doctors to apologize to their patients without having those apologies used against them in Court. Idaho law currently allows such expressions of sympathy and apology to be admissible against doctors except “in certain circumstances.” The bill’s supporters say that patients who receive an apology and sympathy from their treating physician might be less inclined to sue. The bill is expected to pass in some form, although a single word in the bill has caught the attention of the Idaho Trial Lawyer’s Association.

From the article at MagicValley.com:

“This is the start of the healing process,” said Bob Seehusen, a spokesman for the Idaho Medical Association. “It’s not going to stop lawsuits, but it may minimize some of those that can be dealt with by explanation and conversation and communication.”

In the past few years, almost two dozen states have adopted similar laws, said McClure. Idaho’s legislation also includes the word “explanation” along with the expressions of sympathy, condolence, and compassion that a health care provider could safely utter under the proposed law. Barbara Jorden, a lobbyist for the Idaho Trial Lawyers’ Association, said her group supports the bill – except for that one word. She said doctors’ explanations should be admissible in court.

“If the doctor explains what happened in the unintended outcome, that information should be included if the case should actually go forward,” Jorden said. “We don’t want the medical professional to exclude the explanation