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Doctor apology bill passes Pa. Senate, heads to House

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Legislation allowing health care professionals to apologize for an error without fear of reprisal received unanimous approval in the state Senate Tuesday and is now headed for the House.

According to a news release from sponsor Sen. Pat Vance, a Republican who represents parts of Cumberland and York counties, Senate Bill 379 makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by a health care provider, assisted-living residence or personal-care home inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest.

A benevolent gesture is any action that conveys a sense of apology, explanation or compassion emanating from humane impulses related to the discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death of a patient.

Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures.

“Apology has proven a dramatically effective way of resolving conflict and preventing litigation,” Vance said. “Recent studies have shown once given an explanation and apology, many patients and families decide not to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. I’m pleased all stakeholders were able to come together to move this bill forward.”

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