Zaina Afrassiab


Children are taught the most basic common courtesy, apologizing, not long after they learn to speak. While children are expected to say, “I’m sorry,” there are different expectations of and consequences for adults, particularly in professional settings. “As we age, it becomes more difficult to acknowledge harms caused because . . . we are . . . afraid of the consequences that truth-telling sometimes demands.” Can physicians tell patients they are sorry? Should they? In recent years, amidst an ever-increasing fear of litigation, so-called physician apology laws have gained traction in the United States. In fact, apology laws—revisions of state evidentiary codes that prohibit the introduction of expressions of sympathy—are in the lead for the nation’s most widespread tort reform. Consequently, medical professionals and those who represent them in malpractice suits have started to pay more attention to the efficacy of saying “I’m sorry.”



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