Doctors, like everyone else, are imperfect. Unfortunately, when a doctor doesn’t fulfill their duty of care to a patient, it can have serious and even fatal consequences.
When a doctor makes a mistake, such as a surgical error, or is negligent in some way, such as failing to do the appropriate tests that would accurately diagnose a condition, an apology or at least some expression of regret can mean a lot to a patient and their family. If the mistake caused serious and irreversible harm, it may not prevent them from taking legal action, but if it’s minor and reversible, an apology can make a big difference in how people feel about the doctor and the medical system as a whole.
To encourage doctors and other medical professionals to do what is often a natural instinct and apologize for mistakes, or at least for the outcome, most states have enacted some type of “apology law” that exempts their words from being used as evidence against them in a malpractice claim.
In some states, statements of regret or sympathy can’t be used against a doctor, but direct apologies can. In a small number of states – including Connecticut – even if a doctor apologizes for making a mistake that caused harm, that’s not admissible as evidence.
What does Connecticut law say?
Specifically, Connecticut law states, “In any civil action brought by an alleged victim of an unanticipated outcome of medical care…any and all statements, affirmations, gestures or conduct expressing apology, fault, sympathy, commiseration, condolence, compassion or a general sense of benevolence that are made by a health care provider or an employee of a health care provider…that relate to the discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death of the alleged victim as a result of the unanticipated outcome of medical care shall be inadmissible as evidence of an admission of liability….”
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t bring a malpractice claim. There’s likely other evidence, from medical records to witness statements and more that can help you prove that your doctor acted negligently. In fact, an apology can lead you to that evidence. The sooner you can access that evidence, the less likely it is to “disappear” or for witnesses’ memories to fail them. Getting experienced legal guidance is a good first step if you believe you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.