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Do surgeons apologize for surgical errors to avoid a lawsuit?

An apology can go a long way when a person is wronged by someone they trusted. However, in some cases, an apology is simply not enough to right the wrong. This is often the case when surgical errors leave an Illinois patient with permanent injuries -- or worse, the patient dies.

Even though an apology might soften the blow, along with an explanation of what went wrong, that does not mean that the consequences of the error to the patient should not be subject to recompense. In other cases, not receiving an apology could lead to the filing of a medical malpractice claim. For example, a Connecticut woman went in for surgery on one rib, but the surgeon operated on the wrong one. Therefore, a second procedure had to be performed in order to correct the problem.

She was given two different stories from two surgeons who were in the operating room. She did not receive an apology and feels as though they attempted to cover it up. Even after it was all said and done, she claims that she never received an apology or a satisfactory explanation of what went wrong. Therefore, she filed a lawsuit.

This might not be an unusual impetus for filing a lawsuit since studies show that a patient might not file a lawsuit if they are told what happened and given an apology. However, patients here in Illinois and across the country are under no obligation to consider the matter closed just because the surgeon said, "I'm sorry" when it comes to surgical errors. They remain responsible for their actions, and patients -- or their families in the case of death -- retain the right to file medical malpractice claims if appropriate.

Source:, "Lawsuit brings 'I'm sorry' medical laws to forefront", Elizabeth Cohen, March 24, 2016

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