Reform requires more than 'I'm sorry'

The Madison County Record Dec. 5, 2004, 2:00am

To the Editor:

A “Sorry Works” type proposal may be included in a reform bill to address our state’s health care litigation crisis, but should not in any way be viewed as the solution to the problem. As your recent article (“Sorry Works awaits State House action,” Nov. 18) suggests, it’s not as easy as just saying, “I’m sorry.”

Doctors are by nature compassionate people, but the litigious environment in which we work often forces us to speak with our heads over our hearts. Sadly, it is possible for an expression of grief or sympathy to be twisted into an admission of guilt and used against us by opportunistic lawyers with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.

Without legal protection, those who speak from their hearts often get slapped with unwarranted litigation. Proposals that ignore this legal reality merely open the door to greater abuses in the system and a bigger health care access crisis.

Doctors should be allowed to say “I’m sorry” -- such a provision is included in legislation we support -- but that act alone will not solve our state’s problems. Without meaningful reforms to curtail unwarranted lawsuits and outrageous jury awards, we’ll continue in a “sorry” state of affairs.

Kenneth J. Printen, M.D.
President, Illinois State Medical Society

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