Mediation – a safe way to apologise for medical errors
18 July 2017
I was reminded recently of a statement some years ago to the Irish Government by the President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) - ‘fear of litigation has become a major barrier preventing medical professionals from apologising and communicating with patients following an adverse event.’
In other jurisdictions in the UK we have seen a similar issue and often responses are governed by what the insurer will say and the fear that an apology may be interpreted as an admission of liability,yet a doctor’s primary instinct is to help their patient and they often want to apologise and to help make things better.
In the legal profession we repeatedly hear clients telling us that they may never have contemplated litigation if the attitude of the medical staff had been better. In more serious cases, where compensation is vital to help victims of clinical negligence recover and have a reasonable quality of life, clients often tell us that their plight would have been made easier had the medical professionals not been so defensive or reluctant to acknowledge what had gone wrong.
But there is another way – parties entering into mediation as a means of resolving litigation is a clear solution to the problem. In the context of a mediation, where confidentiality is crucial and guaranteed, doctors and medical staff can safely acknowledge what has gone wrong and can apologise, if that’s appropriate, without fear of reprisal. Often, it is this acknowledgement that a client is looking for before any real negotiations to settle a case can even begin.
Lengthy litigation is in the interest of neither party in a clinical negligence case. Inevitably the parties become more entrenched with time, and insult is added to injury as victims have to justify their actions and have to go over details repeatedly, reinforcing and compounding their anger and frustration.
At the better way we provide a mediation service tailored to the needs of the individual – on both sides.