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Will new initiative cut down on medical malpractice claims?

People in New York City go to the hospital expecting that they will feel better when they leave. However, mistakes made by physicians and other medical professionals can leave patients with further complications. In the past, physicians routinely refused to acknowledge when errors were made and often never apologized. However, a new initiative could change that going forward.

A nearby state has designed a program called Disclosure, Apology and Offer. Through the initiative, hospital officials are hoping to cut down on unnecessary tests, create a more open dialogue between doctors and patients and ultimately cut down on medical malpractice disputes.

The hospitals involved in the initiative are Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center.

Through the initiative, hospitals will be required to promptly disclose any mistakes that negatively impacted a patient and investigate how the mistake was made. If the hospital is found negligent, they would offer an apology to the patient and financial compensation. If patients accept the compensation, they cannot sue the hospital later on.

Patients are allowed to seek legal counsel as they decide whether to accept the compensation. If they decline the financial compensation, they can pursue a lawsuit.

The initiative in Massachusetts began in 2010 after the state was given a nearly $3 million grant. Although it encourages a more honest atmosphere, some question whether it is simply an attempt to cut costs.

It is important for victims of medical malpractice to fully understand their rights. Someone in New York City who believes he or she is a victim of medical malpractice would be wise to consult with an experienced attorney.

Source: Boston Globe, "Mass. Docs eye new approach to malpractice claims," Bob Salsberg, April 18, 2012

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