Ken Baker is a pharmacist, lawyer, and former general counsel and senior vice president of Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company. Ken Baker advises clients in pharmacy law and regulation, risk management, insurance and pharmacy quality programs, and reduction of medical errors. Ken Baker is of counsel and a pharmacist consultant with the Phoenix law firm of Renaud Cook Drury Mesaros, PA. He is licensed to practice law in Indiana.
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Apology Laws

"If I Say 'I'm Sorry,' Can It Be Used Against Me?"

Most pharmacists who have spent anytime dealing with the aftermath of a pharmacy medication error will say that the best thing a pharmacist can do, when he or she has made an obvious error, is to say “I’m sorry.”

If a health care professional apologies, however, can that statement be used against them in a court of law? In at least 35 states (including Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas), the answer is "no." These states have passed what are known as “Apology Laws” that say, in essence, that any statement of sympathy or compassion cannot be introduced as evidence of liability in a later suit. As an example, Arizona's Apology Law (A.R.S. § 12-2605) reads in part:

In any civil action that is brought against a health care provider as defined in section 12-561 or in any arbitration proceeding that relates to the civil action, any statement, affirmation, gesture or conduct expressing apology, responsibility, liability, sympathy, commiseration, condolence, compassion or a general sense of benevolence that was made by a health care provider or an employee of a health care provider to the patient, a relative of the patient, the patient's survivors or a health care decision maker for the patient and that relates to the discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death of the patient as the result of the unanticipated outcome of medical care is inadmissible as evidence of an admission of liability or as evidence of an admission against interest.

Check your state’s laws to see if it has an Apology Law in effect. Also, make sure a pharmacist is covered by the act. Finally, make sure it covers errors.



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