Article Title

On Apology


Robert Ward


On February 16, 2006, Dr. Aaron Lazare, Dean and Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, addressed an assembly at the Southern New England School of Law on his critically acclaimed book entitled: “On Apology!” According to Dr. Lazare, to be an effective apology, there must be acknowledgement, remorse, explanation and reparation. Dr. Lazare advances the hypothesis that the current proliferation of cases in our legal system is predicated on the concept that often the aggrieved party was not the beneficiary of an effective apology. In the context of the patient-physician relationship, an effective apology means telling the patient about the injury, along with the physician’s regret for the adverse outcome. Explaining what went wrong and why and offering to make the patient whole, whether that includes additional treatment or monetary relief to cope with the injury. Unfortunately, the law may inadvertently perpetuate the system of ineffective apologies because of a doctor’s fear that saying “I’m sorry” will be treated as a damaging admission of liability by a party opponent at trial.



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