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Program helps military doctors apologize to injured patients

A program that is being expanded by the Defense Department may help military service members in Arizona to get personal apologies from doctors who injured them. Healthcare Resolutions was developed in 2001, and it is currently in operation at eight military medical centers. With assistance from a mediator, patients, family members and doctors can sit down and talk about what went wrong during treatment.

For many injured patients, Healthcare Resolutions provides a way to understand what happened by talking directly with the doctor who was responsible for the medical error. Many doctors value the mediation sessions because it gives them a chance to apologize in an environment where they are usually told not to apologize for fear of lawsuits.

Injured patients and family members of deceased patients do not surrender their rights to pursue medical malpractice complaints by participating in Healthcare Resolutions. However, active-duty troops are not allowed to file lawsuits against medical treatment facilities in accordance with a 1950 Supreme Court decision called the Feres Doctrine. Healthcare Resolutions is considered separate from investigations into patient safety and medical errors, and mediators do not advise patients about medical malpractice lawsuits.

Mediation sessions may help an injured patient to understand what factors led to their injuries. However, many injured patients have suffered from significant financial losses that mediation cannot resolve. An attorney might be able to aid an injured patient in pursuing monetary compensation for the medical costs brought about by doctor errors. Patients who have become disabled after a medical error might also decide to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering.

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