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.