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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: January 3, 2013 11:22 AM
From: Representative Keith Gillespie
To: All House members
Subject: Benevolent Gestures Made by Doctors to Patients (Former HB495, 2011-2012)
I am planning to introduce legislation which will amend the Judicial Code (Title 42) to add a new section entitled “Benevolent gesture or admission by health care provider”, also known as an “I’m Sorry” law.

My bill will establish that a compassionate action or statement by a health care provider to a patient or his relative/representative regarding the patient’s discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death which results from a medical encounter, treatment or procedure will be inadmissible as evidence of liability or as an admission against interest if it is made before the start of any medical malpractice lawsuit.

The American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics, which sets forth standards of professional conduct, states that when a patient suffers significant medical complications that may have resulted from the physician’s mistake or judgment, the physician is ethically required to disclose to the patient all the facts necessary to ensure understanding of what has occurred. The Code goes on to state that a physician’s concern about legal liability that might result from full disclosure should not affect his or her decision to deal candidly with a patient.

While most physicians might agree with this principle in theory, fear of litigation may hamper a doctor’s full disclosure of errors and unanticipated outcomes. As a result, 29 states have enacted evidentiary rules that make expressions of sympathy following an accident or error inadmissible in civil court to prove liability. This body of legislation, referred to as “I’m Sorry” laws, encourages full disclosure of mistakes and errors in judgment by eliminating physician and hospital fear that their admissions will be used against them in court. It also allows health care providers to display natural expressions of empathy and compassion to patients and families without fear of reprisal.

Introduced as HB57