Sometimes an apology is all it takes to mend fences ? at least the state of Pennsylvania hopes this is the case for healthcare providers who own up to their negligent actions. Recently, Governor Tom Corbett signed Senate Bill 379, otherwise known as the Benevolent Gesture Law.
The Benevolent Gesture Law allows healthcare professionals and officers of assisted-living facilities to make benevolent gestures of apology or admissions regarding the patient’s pain or quality of services received ? without fear it will be used against them in a lawsuit. The real thrust of the law is that if a healthcare provider makes such a statement before the commencement of a liability action, the statement made by that professional will be inadmissible as evidence of negligence in any subsequent suit against that party. In other words, healthcare professionals can now rest assured that their honest apologies for and admissions of substandard care will not be used against them in court.
Any reform that encourages healthcare providers to be more forthright with their patients should be applauded. However, it is imperative for patients to understand what the Benevolent Gesture Law does not do. First, the law does not relieve healthcare providers of liability in the case of negligence. Second, the law does not take away a patient’s right to sue in cases of suspected negligence.
Even with the new reforms, healthcare providers still have a duty to treat their patients with the proper standard of care. Generally this means healthcare providers must provide the level and type of care a reasonably competent healthcare professional under similar circumstances would provide that patient. If your medical provider’s care has fallen below this standard and you have been injured as a result, it is possible a simple apology ? while valuable ? will not properly compensate you for all you have lost.