As most people who know me know, I am a registered pharmacist in addition to being a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy in December 1992, and passing the Rhode Island pharmacist licensure exam in February 1993, I practiced pharmacy in various settings until graduating SMU’s Dedman School of Law in May 2003.
As part of the continuing education for my pharmacist license, I recently went to a continuing education seminar presented by the Institute for Brain Potential in which Martin M. Antony, PhD was the speaker.
During the presentation, Dr. Antony said that numerous studies point to poor communications by health care professionals as the most common factor leading to malpractice claims.
According to Dr. Antony, it is not a mistake that generally leads to a lawsuit; rather, it is poor communication after the mistake. The examples Dr. Antony gave were things such as health care providers avoiding his or her patient’s calls after the mistake because they know the patient is angry, failing to admit the mistake, and failing to say “I am sorry.”
The failure to apologize is an interesting point. Many lawyers advise their clients that in any in any situation, whether it is a car accident or a mistake in a health care setting, not to apologize and not to admit to anything, especially not fault.
While this advice certainly is applicable in many situations. The criminal context immediately comes to mind. But if a verifiable mistake is made in a health care setting, then there may be other strategies to consider.
The purpose of this blog post is not to give legal advice, and certainly is not to come up with a strategy for dealing with a pharmacist, physician or hospital mistake in less than 500 words. Rather, it is to suggest that health care providers should have a plan in place for dealing with mistakes prior to the issue getting to litigation, and to highlight that patient communication may be an integral part of that plan.
I have been defending pharmacists against a multitude of claims for my entire thirteen years of law practice. Many at Fox Rothschild have been doing it much longer. We can help you come up with a plan for dealing with health care liability claims and/or mistakes.