Empathy vs Apology Part 2

An apology is different. Apology is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an expression of regret for having done or said something wrong.” In other words, to apologize is to express remorse for having caused or contributed to a situation. Unfortunately, simply saying “I’m sorry” may be interpreted as either an apology or empathy.  Physicians and all healthcare providers should not be concerned, however, with having their statements of empathy used against them.  If you feel bad for a patient’s situation, say so.  

Is it appropriate for the physician to admit fault for an adverse event before all the facts are known? Of course not. An apology may be appropriate only after an investigation has determined there was an error or breach in the standard of care, as well as a causative connection. Work with your designated ProAssurance Claims and/or Risk Resource Department staff member to determine the appropriateness and potential impact of the conversation.