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Narrative Review: Do State Laws Make It Easier to Say “I'm Sorry?”

William M. McDonnell, MD, JD; and Elisabeth Guenther, MD, MPH
[+] Article and Author Information

From University of Utah School of Medicine, S.J. Quinney College of Law, and Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.


Grant Support: By National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant K23HD043145 (Dr. Guenther).

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Requests for Single Reprints: William M. McDonnell, MD, JD, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, PO Box 581289, Salt Lake City, UT 84158; e-mail, william.mcdonnell@hsc.utah.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. McDonnell and Guenther: University of Utah, PO Box 581289, Salt Lake City, UT 84158.


Ann Intern Med. 2008;149(11):811-815. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-149-11-200812020-00007
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Initiatives intended to reduce the frequency and impact of medical errors generally rely on recognition and disclosure of medical errors. However, fear of malpractice liability is a barrier to physician disclosure. Some U.S. state legislatures have attempted to encourage physicians to disclose medical errors by enacting “apology laws.” The authors reviewed the codified statutes of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the prevalence and characteristics of such apology laws. They found that many states have recently adopted apology laws and that there is variability in these laws. The authors review some of the important differences in these laws and explore the potential impact of apology laws.

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