Health Care Apology Bill Passes Legislature

April 8, 2014

The Wisconsin State Legislature has passed Assembly Bill 120, which makes a health care provider’s statement of apology or condolence inadmissible as evidence in court. The Bill is intended to shield health care providers from potential liability for apologizing to a patient or to his or her family members for a bad medical result.  The law encompasses a wide range of health care providers, including ambulatory surgery centers, adult family homes, and residential care apartment complexes.

The proposed law encourages health care providers to apologize or offer sympathy to patients without risk that such statements will be used as evidence against them in court.  There are obvious benefits of apologizing for poor outcomes: research shows patients are less likely to sue their health care providers when those providers apologize and explain the poor outcome.  Moreover, honest dialogue about what happened and genuine sympathy may help to foster better relationships between patients and health care providers.  This proposed law encourages this dialogue while ensuring it is not later used against the provider to establish liability.

The Bill has been forwarded to Governor Walker for consideration.  If Governor Walker signs the Bill, Wisconsin will join the majority of states which have laws in place to protect this important dialogue between patients and their health care providers.

This alert was written with the assistance of Axley’s Library Intern Andrew Lang.