When someone makes a mistake that harms you, sometimes an apology is all that is needed. But when it comes to medical malpractice, chances are that while the gesture may be appreciated, it is far from the end of the reparations needed.
Some states, including South Carolina, have passed laws that allow a medical professional to make an apologetic or benevolent gesture without that being an admission of guilt or liability in an alleged case of medical malpractice. The South Carolina law goes further, actually encouraging such actions when medical care results in an unanticipated outcome.
The law, which is known as the "South Carolina Unanticipated Medical Outcome Reconciliation Act," was passed by the South Carolina legislature in 2006.
Any evidence regarding such a gesture by a medical professional or health care facility is inadmissible in a medical malpractice suit to support the allegation of guilt against the provider. The health care provider can, however, waive its right to suppress the evidence.
To protect the medical professional or facility, the language of the law is quite broad. It protects "conduct, statements, or activity" which would be construed as "voluntary offers of assistance" or "expressions of benevolence, regret, mistake, error, sympathy, or apology."
The law states that allowing these types of expressions without implying guilt improves communications and respect between the parties and promotes the patient’s faster recovery. But, it also expressly states that such laws have been shown to "reduce the incidence of claims and lawsuits" filed in medical malpractice cases.
While there may be some situations in which a patient has been the victim of medical malpractice that the genuine apology and assistance from the health care provider may suffice, cases in which the patient suffers long-term or permanent consequences, or when the family of a patient must go on without their loved one, will rarely be remedied with just an apology.
Whether or not a health care provider has offered an apology or condolences after an "unanticipated outcome" has had a negative impact on your life, you may still be eligible for compensation for any expenses you have incurred, as well as for pain and suffering experienced as a result of the event.
An attorney in South Carolina who is familiar with the application of this law can help you determine whether "I’m sorry" is enough.