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Medical Professional Apologies Statutes

Medical Professional Apologies Statutes

Heather Morton 1/21/2014

Following discovery that something has gone wrong with a patient, many medical professionals may wish to express their condolences or apologies to patients or their families. In some states, however, such expressions may be admissible before courts as possible evidence of wrongdoing or guilt in medical liability/malpractice cases. Many doctors are advised, if not ordered, to refrain from making such statements to patients and families, should the matter end up in court.

In an effort to reduce medical liability/malpractice lawsuits and litigation expenses, state legislators and policymakers are changing the laws to exclude expressions of sympathy, condolences or apologies from being used against medical professionals in court. Proponents of these so-called "I'm sorry" laws believe that allowing medical professionals to make these statements can reduce medical liability/malpractice litigation.

Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions regarding medical professionals making apologies or sympathetic gestures. Of these states, six states have provisions that specifically relate to accidents.

State Statutory Citation for Apologies and Other Sympathetic Gestures Generally
Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §12-2605
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-25-135
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-184d
Delaware Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, §4318
District of Columbia D.C. Code Ann. §16-2841
Georgia Ga. Code §24-4-416
Guam Guam Code Ann. tit. 10, §11112
Hawaii Hawaii Rev. Stat. §626-1, Rule 409.5
Idaho Idaho Code §9-2-9-207
Illinois None. Provision allowing for sympathetic gestures (Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 735, §5/8-1901) declared unconstitutional by state Supreme Court (see Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hosp., 930 N.E.2d 895 (Ill. 2010)).
Indiana Ind. Code §34-43.5-1-1 et seq.
Iowa Iowa Code §622.31
Louisiana La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §13:3715.5
Maine Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 24, §2907
Maryland Md. Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code Ann. §10-920
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws. Ann. ch. 233, §79L
Michigan Mich. Comp. Laws §600.2155
Missouri Mo. Rev. Stat. §538.229
Montana Mont. Code Ann. §26-1-814
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. §27-1201
New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §507-E:4
North Carolina N.C. Gen. Stat. §8C-1, Rule 413
North Dakota N.D. Cent. Code §31-04-12
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2317.43
Oklahoma Okla. Stat. tit. 63, §1-1708.1H
Oregon Or. Rev. Stat. §677.082
Pennsylvania Pa. Stat. tit. 35, §10228.1 et seq.
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. §19-1-190
South Dakota S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §19-12-14
Utah Utah Code Ann. §78B-3-422
Vermont Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, §1912
Virginia

Va. Code §8.01-52.1

Va. Code §8.01-581.20:1
West Virginia W. Va. Code §55-7-11A
Wyoming Wyo. Stat. §1-1-130

 

 

State Statutory Citation for Apologies and Other Sympathetic Gestures Related to an Accident
California Cal. Evidence Code §1160
Florida Fla. Stat. §90.4026
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws. Ann. ch. 233, §23D
Tennessee Tenn. Evidence Rule §409.1
Texas Tex. Civil Practice & Remedies Code Ann. §18.061
Washington Wash. Rev. Code §5.66.010

 

Heather Morton is a program principal in Fiscal Affairs. She covers financial services, alcohol production and sales, and medical malpractice issues for NCSL.

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