The so-called “benevolent gesture” bill has passed the Pennsylvania Senate and has moved on to the House. The bill would allow health care providers to apologize to patients following a poor medical outcome without concern that the apology would be used against them in a subsequent medical malpractice case. If passed, the bill would make such words of apology inadmissible at civil trials. Many states already have similar laws. The Pennsylvania Senate has tried before to pass a “benevolent gesture” law without success.
Some recent studies have shown that, where doctors apologize for errors, patients and their families are less likely to file medical malpractice cases. According to a statement issued by Sen. Patricia Vance, one of the sponsors of the bill, “apology has proven a dramatically effective way of resolving conflict and preventing litigation.” Another of the sponsors, Sen. Gene Yaw, explains that the law “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 right of individuals to pursue claims for substandard healthcare.”