Aug 27, 2012

New Law in Massachusetts: Disclosure, Apology, and Offer Seeks To Settle Med Mal Claims Sooner, Cheaper

The health care cost control bill recently passed by the Massachusetts legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick on August 6 contains specific language that facilitates an approach of Disclosure, Apology, and Offer (DA&O) to address medical malpractice claims.

Language in the bill was agreed to by three principal groups – the Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Bar Association, and Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys. Approval of the law makes Massachusetts the first in the nation to have comprehensive legislation that will enable the conduct of a DA&O program in different practice environments with different insurance arrangements. 

Changes include provisions for a six-month, pre-litigation resolution period that affords the time to go through a DA&O process with sharing of all pertinent medical records by the patient, full disclosure by providers, and for statements of apology by providers to be inadmissible in court.

Under the DA&O model, healthcare professionals and institutions and their insurers disclose to patients and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur; investigate and explain what happened; establish systems to improve patient safety and prevent the recurrence of such incidents; and, where appropriate, apologize and offer fair financial compensation without the patient having to resort to legal action. Patients will always have the right to consult an attorney to advise them of their rights and to evaluate the fairness of any offer or to bring legal action if they so choose.

The Disclosure, Apology, and Offer approach to settling medical liability claims in the commonwealth was announced in April as an initiative launched by an alliance of six major health care and patient advocacy organizations.

Apr 27, 2012

Coalition of Massachusetts Hospitals Launch Medical Apology Initiative

Via Medical Malpractice Law News: A coalition of seven Massachusetts hospitals are undertaking an intiative to transform a culture of "secrecy and denial" regarding medical errors according to a report in The Boston Globe. The hospitals in the coalition include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Baystate Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital. The plan calls on health providers to fully disclose mistakes to patients and apologize. Under the plan, patients who accept a financial settlement forfeit their right to sue.

Related articles in The Boston Globe:

Feb 27, 2012

Medical Malpractice Overlooked In Massachusetts?

This Channel 4 I-Team investigative report describes how medical malpractice lawsuits that settle for money before trial rarely lead to doctors being disciplined. See full article here: Hundreds Of Doctors Who Settle Malpractice Claims In Mass. Are Not Held Accountable

According to the report which examined
"records for more than 16,000 doctors and found 654 of them have settled one or more malpractice claims in the last decade. Out of those, only six doctors — less than 1 percent — have been disciplined by the state board."
These findings are similar to those of a national state by state analysis by Public Citizen: State Medical Boards Fail to Discipline Doctors with Hospital Actions Against Them, as reported in sister publication NH Medical Malpractice News.