Removing The Legal Risk Of Saying “I’m Sorry”


July 2, 2013

In the Pennsylvania legislature, a bill known as the “benevolent-gesture bill” was passed unanimously in the state Senate and the House Judiciary Committee last week. Senate Bill 379 awaits a vote on the House floor.  This piece of legislation would prohibit empathetic statements, such as apologies and condolences, offered by health care providers from being used against them in court.

It has been recognized for some years that the offer of an apology to a patient dramatically decreases the likelihood of a malpractice action being filed.  Should Pennsylvania enact this legislation, it would join 36 other states and the District of Columbia.  Much of the success and prevalence of these laws needs to be credited to the organization, “Sorry Works.”

A 2011 version of the bill was rejected by the Senate because it lumped outright admission of negligence with benevolent gestures as statements inadmissible at trial.

Given the track record of organizations such as the University of Illinois with apology policies, Pennsylvania would be smart to enact this legislation.