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New initiative aims to cut down on medical malpractice claims

When people in Atlanta visit the hospital, they expect that they will leave healthier than when they arrived. However, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, those mistakes can leave people suffering further complications.

Although doctors do not intentionally harm their patients, there may be instances when they are not completely truthful about errors that occur. In the past, many doctors would not alert patients to a mistake and would not offer any sort of apology. However, hospital officials in one state have been working on a new initiative to change that in an effort to cut down on medical malpractice claims.

The new program is called Disclosure, Apology and Offer. Through the initiative, hospitals hope to decrease the number of unnecessary tests, create a more open dialogue between patients and doctors and settle cases of medical malpractice without having to go through lengthy court battles.

Under the program, hospitals are required to disclose mistakes to patients in a timely manner. If a hospital is found to be negligent after an investigation, the hospital will offer the patient and their family an apology and financial compensation. If the patient accepts the compensation, they cannot sue the hospital. However, if they decline the offer, they can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital later on.

People are encouraged to seek legal counsel as they consider whether or not they will accept the compensation offered to them by the hospital.

The hospitals participating in the initiative are Massachusetts General and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Source: Boston Globe, "Mass. Docs eye new approach to malpractice claims," Bob Salsberg, April 18, 2012

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