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New Wisconsin law forbids use of doctors' apologies as evidence

In the growing national tug-of-war between patient rights and physician protection, Wisconsin has joined over 35 other states that have chosen to enact a law that prevents physicians' apologies from being submitted as evidence against them in the courtroom. The Bill, which has been signed by the governor of Wisconsin, will shield from evidence physician gestures or statements that express apology, fault, condolence, benevolence, remorse, compassion or sympathy to a patient's family or the patient themselves.

The law is evidence of a growing trend in America among jurisdictions to protect physicians who apologize after medical mishaps. So far, 37 states have enacted similar laws, most recently of which was Pennsylvania. That state enacted an apology statute last October. The laws vary in severity, but all of them provide protection to doctors who have expressed sympathy to victims of medical malpractice. The strongest of the laws, such as the one Wisconsin, protect expressions of fault as well as simple apologies.

Despite the trend, many individuals and associations oppose apology laws, including the Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ), which expressed disappointment over the new law. A statement released by the WAJ president says that the law is detrimental to proving many medical malpractice claims, and it gives the medical community too much power.

In a field of law that is sometimes challenging to legal professionals, America's apology laws will likely tax personal injury attorneys who strongly advocate for the rights of medical malpractice victims. It will take a savvy legal team to overcome the restrictions and bring justice to those who have been wronged by the medical profession. Fortunately, personal injury lawyers in Wisconsin and other states care enough about their clients to face the new challenges boldly and with confidence.

Source: Skin & Allergy News, "Wisconsin law shields doctors’ apologies from malpractice cases" Alicia Gallegos, Apr. 18, 2014

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