A few years ago, I was with my father in the ICU of a community hospital when I noticed that he seemed worse than usual and had a rash all over his body.  I tried to get the attention of the doctors, but they had better things to do than tend to non-life-threatening issues.

I was about to walk out the door after a long day when my father’s most senior doctor called out to me, “Wait a minute.  I want to tell you something”.  So I stopped.  The doctor said: “I just want you to know that I mistakenly gave your father a medication he was allergic to and I want to apologize for it.

I thought my ears needed cleaning because it’s not often that I hear doctors say “I’m sorry”.  But I certainly appreciated it.  Apparently things are changing now.  According to an editorial in the New York Times today, doctors at certain major hospitals are being encouraged to acknowledge and apologize for their errors promptly.  I think in the long run this will improve our healthcare system and the lives of both doctors and patients.  Following are some excerpts from the story.


The willingness of doctors at several major medical centers to apologize to patients for harmful errors is a promising step toward improving the quality of a medical system that kills tens of thousands of patients a year inadvertently.

For years, experts have lamented that medical malpractice litigation is an inefficient way to deter lethal or damaging medical errors. Most victims of malpractice never sue, and there is some evidence that many patients who do sue were not harmed by a physici