The Power of Apology in Medicine

A few weeks ago I received a rather odd book to review: “The Power of Apology in Medicine,” a short treatise on “the movement toward apology and full disclosure in medicine.”

We chronic patient types know all about the importance of good “bedside manner.” We’ve all got our doctor horror stories about insensitive comments and shockingly inappropriate behavior. These ugly encounters stick with us forever, and add an extra crust of negativity to our already hard-to-swallow diagnoses. Healing_words_2

What’s odd is that this book is not written by a patient at all, but by a doctor from the Midwest who felt so strongly about healthcare going to hell in a handbasket that he not only wrote a book, but also established a foundation to help physicians “increase patient satisfaction and decrease the likelihood of malpractice lawsuits.”

Dr. Michael Woods coaches doctors everywhere to use the four Rs of apology: recognition, regret, responsibility, and remedy. (Physicians can even buy pocket index cards for $3.50 each, or 5 for $10, lest they forget to use the right approach with patients).

Now I really can’t decide if this is a humane and progressive movement, or a huge CYA campaign for doctors looking to avoid malpractice suits…

Of course doctors ought to say they’re sorry when they make mistakes! Of course they should take responsibility and do their best to make things right! And it’s not brain surgery to figure that talking nicely to your patients will do you better than talking down to them.

Dr. Woods’ whole Doctors in Touch group was founded “to help physicians achieve greater personal and professional satisfaction, better patient and staff relationships, a more successful practice, and reduced liability.” Hmmph, saving the best for last?

But after looking through the book itself and various related Web sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dr. Woods’ heart is in the right place. I mean, if this movement can help us get better care and have more productive and more pleasant interactions with our doctors, then more power to ‘em! Naturally we’ll be less inclined to sue…

If you’re interested in seeing the book for yourself, order for $19.95 plus shipping and handling HERE.

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