New Pennsylvania Law Limits Admissibility of Apologies by Doctors

/ 13.Nov, 2013

The Pennsylvania legislature unanimously voted to approve, and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law, an act designed to allow medical professionals to apologize to patients without the apology being used as an admission of liability.  Officially known as the “Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act,” the Act states any “benevolent gesture. . . shall be inadmissible as evidence of liability.”  A “benevolent gesture” is defined as “any action, conduct, statement or gesture that conveys a sense of  apology, condolence, explanation, compassion or commiseration emanating from humane impulses.”  The Act specifically excepts “a communication, including an excited utterance, which also includes a statement or statements of negligence or fault pertaining to an accident or event.”  The Act is effective for actions commenced after the effective date which will be December 22, 2013.  Thirty-six other jurisdictions have enacted similar laws.  One of the most obvious issues with this Act will be the scope of the exception, and what constitutes a “statement of negligence or fault” as opposed to an inadmissible “benevolent gesture.”

Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire