At first blush the Sorry Works bill (S1784) seems to be a good bill or at least a bill that would do no harm. Supporters claim that it will benefit doctors, which it will. That would be a good thing if it also benefited victims of medical malpractice, which its supporters purport it will do.
There is a problem that seems to undercut the implied sincerity of the "I'm sorry" approach. Many doctors need to attend a seminar to learn how to apologize. There is, of course, the occasional doctor who offers a sincere apology following malpractice, often with the outcome supporters of this bill are seeking. Apologizing by the book reflects a cynicism that will surely be noted.
Victims don't need seminars to know how to express their emotions. They scream when they are in pain. They cry when they think of their lost hopes, their lost dreams. Family members who stand beside the grave of a medical malpractice victim don't need anyone to tell them that it is time to weep. Providing swift justice for victims sounds like a good idea on the surface, but I fear that the swift approach might deny justice for victims who are looking at a lifetime of suffering. Following malpractice, victims and their families are in a state of emotional turmoil. They are also on unfamiliar ground and may very well not have the information needed to determine how much it will cost to care for the victim for the rest of his life.
Who can argue the need to reduce medical errors, which supporters of this bill claim will be the outcome of its passage? With no critical disincentive to reduce errors such as a meaningful financial finding against those who practice malpractice, I fear that the status quo will not change and that the incidence of errors may, in fact, increase.