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WI Attorney: There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying “I’m Sorry”

Milwaukee attorney Jeff Pitman says Wisconsin's proposed version of the "I'm Sorry" law goes too far.
Milwaukee attorney Jeff Pitman says Wisconsin's proposed version of the "I'm Sorry" law goes too far.
October 14, 2013

MILWAUKEE – Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming around 300,000 lives each year.

Milwaukee attorney Jeff Pitman says a bill in the Legislature commonly called the "I'm Sorry" bill is another blow to patients' rights in Wisconsin, which he says have been eroded by the state Legislature for the past three years.

Pitman says there's no problem with a health care provider saying "I'm sorry," after the death of a patient, but this bill goes way too far.

"They want to say that if the health care provider admits that they're at fault, that they're responsible, or that they're liable for injuring or killing the loved one, that that would be inadmissible at trial, which is absolutely ridiculous," he says.

Supporters of the bill say it's just another step in controlling the malpractice insurance crisis in Wisconsin.

"No, there's no crisis and there hasn't been a crisis in the state of Wisconsin, ever,” Pitman counters. “The Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund has a billion dollars – that's with a B – a billion dollars in the fund to compensate people who are injured by hospitals and physicians."

Pitman says medical liability insurers in Wisconsin have the lowest loss ratio in the nation, paying out 49 cents of every premium dollar collected, contrasted with the national average of 83 cents per premium dollar.

He adds 35 states have "I'm Sorry" legislation, but only six go to the extreme as proposed in Wisconsin's bill.

Pitman, who has handled scores of cases involving medical errors resulting in the death of a loved one, says it's been his experience that complete and honest communication is always the best.

"If you tell them that you're at fault, and 'I screwed up,' they're probably not going to get sued,” he explains. “There are plenty of studies out there that show that – that talking with the family, telling them what happened, what's going on, and why the outcome was the way that it was – (is) almost more important to the family than any type of financial compensation for the result."

Pitman says the bill does nothing to reduce health care costs or improve patient safety.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI