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Apologies by doctors inadmissible in medical malpractice case

If there's two words no one in Connecticut wishes to hear from his or her doctor, or the physician treating a loved one, they are: "I'm sorry." That is because those words are usually followed by some form of bad news, possibly even the worst news possible. Sometimes, for people in such situations, everything after such a statement becomes a blur of emotions and non-rational reaction. The apology, however, is also standard practice by medical professionals when it comes to unexpected or unwanted outcomes of treatment.

Because it is a standard line, and because it may be in the interest of the state to promote the compassion and understanding of their patients by doctors, Connecticut makes such generic statements inadmissible in actions for medical malpractice. While in other negligence contexts, an apology by the alleged negligent individual may be an admission that the person knows he or she did something wrong, the law in medical malpractice cases sees it as simply part of the professional behavior of medical providers.

To be clear what we are discussing, this is set out in Connecticut Public Law sec. 52-184d, which states that apologies, expressions of fault or other condolences or commiserations by health care professionals with patients of family members due to an unexpected outcome of a course of treatment cannot be used to prove the actual fault of such a health care provider.

While it may seem a bit harsh to throw out such statements, it should be remembered that there are other ways to show medical malpractice has occurred. The use of expert witnesses to explain how the treatment or behavior of a defendant deviated from the required standard of care in the medical profession is one of the major ways plaintiffs can prove their cases. Connecticut residents should not be afraid to enforce their rights when a doctor or other medical professional has created harm by acting negligently in the performance of his or her duties.

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