Senate Approves Bill Facilitating Medical Professional Apologies

HARRISBURG – The Senate today passed legislation allowing health care professionals to apologize for an error without fear of reprisal, said Sens. Pat Vance (R-31) and Gene Yaw (R-23), who shepherded the bill.

Senate Bill 379 makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by a health care provider, assisted living residence or personal care home inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is any action that conveys a sense of apology, explanation, or compassion emanating from humane impulses related to the discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death of a patient.

“Apology has proven a dramatically effective way of resolving conflict and preventing litigation,” Vance said. “Recent studies have shown once given an explanation and apology many patients and families decide not to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. I’m pleased all stakeholders were able to come together to move this bill forward.”

“I think this piece of legislation is a great compromise,” Yaw said.  “It allows doctors to make expressions of sympathy without fear that those expressions will be used as a weapon against them, yet the legislation still preserves the rights of individuals to pursue claims for substandard healthcare.  I commend Senator Vance on her perseverance in promoting this legislation over several years.”

Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Vance’s district includes all of Cumberland County and Carroll, Fairview, Franklin, Monaghan, Warrington and Washington townships and Dillsburg, Franklintown and Wellsville boroughs in York County.

Yaw’s district includes Bradford, Lycoming and Sullivan counties and parts of Susquehanna and Union counties.

Contact: Rita Zielonis
(717) 787-3280

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