FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) – Medical professionals in Kentucky may soon be able to express slightly more emotion with a patient and not be worried about being sued for doing so.
That’s because the Kentucky Senate is currently considering a bill that would allow physicians to tell a patient simply that they are sorry for a medical diagnosis.
Under current conditions, many doctors are afraid of expressions such as this, fearing that they could be construed as an admission of incompetence or as an apology for having done something wrong. These assumptions (by a patient) could leave the doctor open to malpractice or negligence lawsuits.
If a doctor just wants to express empathy with the patient. If passed, Senate Bill 85 would allow them to do just that.
The bill, which was introduced to the state Senate on Jan. 4, is currently in the Senate’s Health & Welfare Committee. The stated goal of the bill is to “Create a new section of the Kentucky Rules of Evidence to prohibit the introduction of expressions of sympathy, compassion, commiseration, or a general sense of benevolence in medical malpractice actions.”
Its introduction has been welcomed by physicians across the state. Mary Branham, the director of communications of the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care, told Legal Newsline that the KMA is “supportive of this legislation.”
“KMA believes a physician’s expression of sympathy, compassion or benevolence with regard to a patient, that is not otherwise an admission of negligence, should not be used as evidence in medical malpractice cases," Branham said.
"Physicians are human and have established a relationship, often a long-term relationship, with their patients.”
If the law passes, Kentucky would join 36 other states that have enacted similar laws. According to Dr. Curtis Cary, writing for the Lexington Herald Leader, “In these states, studies have shown that medical negligence cases settle faster, litigation costs are reduced, and the claim payout of severe medical injuries is reduced.”
“Being able to express compassion to a patient or a patient’s family allows the open communication between the physician and patient to continue,” Branham said.