October 2013 Newsletter
Protect Patients Now

Volume 8, Issue 10 October 2013 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

PA OK’s I’m Sorry Law
Judge Rejects Defendant Access to Communications in Liability Cases
Top Concern for New Hampshire Physicians: Medical Liability

PA OK’s I’m Sorry Law

With the federal government mired in dysfunction for most of the month of October, it was up to the states to take any possible actions advancing medical liability reforms, and Pennsylvania took a big step in allowing physicians to make apologetic and benevolent gestures to patients without facing the threat of a liability lawsuit.

The state Legislature was able to strike a balance between the natural emotions of physicians and unintended medical outcomes, and passed a law that allows doctors to apologize without fear that their expressions would be used against them.

Dr. Richard Shott, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said in support of the law, “Medicine is not an exact science, and outcomes can be unpredictable. Benevolent gestures are always appropriate, and physicians should not have to fear giving them.”

The law was written to ensure that it preserves patients’ rights while permitting doctors to apologize without worrying that it would be used as evidence of negligence in cases of an unwanted or unexpected medical outcome.

Pennsylvania now joins 37 other states that have passed similar laws, a step forward in reducing frivolous lawsuits and lowering health care costs for patients and physicians. To read more about Pennsylvania’s “I’m Sorry” law, click here.

Judge Rejects Defendant Access to Communications in Liability Cases

It seems to be one step forward and two steps back for Florida’s medical liability system, where a federal judge ruled last month against a recent law allowing “ex-parte communications,” giving personal injury lawyers an advantage in medical liability lawsuits.

The ex-parte communications issue comes into play when physicians and their attorneys are trying to gather information about patients alleging medical wrongdoing. The law in question would allow defense attorneys to talk with other doctors who have treated the patient who filed a medical liability claim.

Such communications give physicians’ attorneys access to information that personal injury attorneys already can review, and could help defense attorneys make decisions more quickly about whether to settle or proceed with cases.

The issue now heads to an appeals court, where groups dedicated to liability reform, including the Florida Medical Society, have vowed to fight for equal access to information when a medical liability lawsuit arises. To read more about the ex-parte communications ruling, click here.

Top Concern for New Hampshire Physicians: Medical Liability

Results of the New Hampshire Medical Society’s physician survey earlier this month showed overwhelming evidence that doctors in the state are most concerned with medical liability and lack of progress on reforming a broken system.

Of 2,965 surveys sent to members and non-members of the society, 588 physicians responded.

Respondents largely indicated the group should focus on malpractice issues and tort reform, with 66 percent of respondents believing it is “very important” for NHMS to focus on malpractice issues/tort reform. Seventy-four percent “strongly support” reform efforts, and 45 percent ranked it as the top issue on which NHMS should concentrate. Sixty-seven percent chose reform as one of their top three priorities.

You can read more about the New Hampshire Medical Society survey here.