Massachusetts recently enacted a new state law that establishes a process and time frame for discussing mistakes designed to benefit patients, doctors and hospitals. The law mandates that people give health care providers six months notice if they intend to sue for malpractice.
In one of the first test cases, a woman went in for gallbladder surgery. While performing the surgery, the doctor’s noticed what could be cancer on a CT scan. However, they never ended up recommending she have a pelvic ultrasound to investigate the cancer. Months later, the woman was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Using this new law, the woman’s attorney notified the hospital about the claim. The hospital did their own investigation and determined that they messed up. The arranged a meeting to discuss why the error occurred, how to prevent it in the future and to give the woman an apology. Soon after, the woman accepted a settlement from the hospital. The process took about one year, however, that is much less time than a lengthy court battle would take.
As far as the woman and her attorney are concerned, the hospital did the right thing and made his client feel really good about it. The woman felt like she was heard and something was done.
Could this be a new wave approach for all of the states to follow? Time will tell.