To the Editor
I could not agree more with the article in the Spring 2006 APSF Newsletter entitled “Adverse Events Require Communication and Disclosure.”1 As a current applicant to Indiana University School of Medicine, I think legislation banning the use of an apology or other statements of sympathy as evidence of fault in medical malpractice lawsuits is crucial for the future of medicine. One such example of such legislation was House Enrolled Act No. 1112, co-authored by my grandmother, representative Phyllis Pond, and signed by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to become effective on July 1, 2006. Of the 4 house co-authors (Foley, Thomas, Kuzman, and Pond), 3 are attorneys and 1 is an educator. Both sponsors in the senate (Kenley and Bray) are attorneys. It was a bipartisan effort to allow a person to express true concern in case of an accident or adverse medical outcome. The bill specifically states in chapter 1, section 3 that “any statement, gesture, act, conduct, or a writing that expresses sympathy, an apology, or a general sense of benevolence” may not be used as evidence in an accident or medical malpractice suit. The bill does, however, still allow admission of “a statement of fault into evidence.”2 I think it is absurd that in many states health care providers feel they cannot express sympathy for fear of a lawsuit. With malpractice patient compensation reaching an all time high, $104 million in 2004 in the state of Indiana alone,3 legislation allowing caregivers to communicate sympathy to patients without fear of a lawsuit may greatly reduce this figure across the board and foster better physician patient relations. Remember communications of sympathy are not admissible; however, admission of fault may still be admitted into evidence.
Gregory C. Pond
Fort Wayne, IN
- Trombly ST. Adverse events require communication and disclosure. APSF Newsletter 2006;21(1)1-3
- Indiana Code-IC 34-43.5 As amended effective July 1, 2006. Available online at: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2006/PDF/HE/HE1112.1.pdf. Accessed June 7, 2006.
- Indiana Malpractice Bill May Take Sting from Docs saying ‘I’m sorry.’ Insurance Journal, January 23, 2006. Available online at http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/midwest/2006/01/23/features/65678.htm. Accessed June 7, 2006.