A second conference call, and a closer look at apology protection laws

Last month I had a second conference call with representatives of a Kansas professional organization. The topic was almost entirely on apology protection laws. The general message I got from this conversation is that the protections in our bill are too broad, but some of the earlier bills from past years have a more narrow and appropriate scope. (Quick review of the context: My family’s legislative bill has two parts: the first requires patients to be informed about unanticipated outcomes and medical errors in their care, and the second provides protections to exclude “expressions of apology, sympathy, explanation or fault” from being used as evidence of fault if there is a malpractice case.)

The content of our bill is based on the best practice recommendations in this paper, and we used as much wording as possible from the last apology protection bill (substitute for Kansas House Bill 2069, PDF here) discussed back in 2011. The point of my family’s bill is not these legal protections for physicians and hospital representatives. The point is to require disclosure of unanticipated outcomes and medical errors to patients. We are including these legal protections because of the best practice recommendations, and because these apology protection laws are very popular with legislatures and the medical community—and our bill for disclosure is unlikely to be successful without them. But this conversation last month prompted me to take a closer look at these apology protections. I have always had the feeling that these laws were a bit odd. I am starting to realize why I had that feeling. Continue reading