Nancy L. Zisk


After a review of a physician's ethical duty to disclose and the empirical evidence of how open and honest communication between patient and physician actually benefits both the patient and the treating physician, the paper questions whether apologies by health care providers need the protection afforded by these laws. Section II reviews the history of the medical profession's tendency toward silence and the reasons for that silence. Section III examines the state statutes passed to encourage the breaking of this silence. Section IV reviews the state rules of evidence that have traditionally been applied to determine whether or not statements of regret or fault are admissible and examines how these statements affect the outcome of medical malpractice claims. Then, Section V considers a physician's ethical duty of full disclosure and the impact of honest communication between physician and patient. Section VI concludes, based on these considerations, that a physician should disclose mistakes and admit responsibility for those mistakes, and should do so without any special protection if they are sued to answer for those mistakes. Requiring physicians to do the same as what we expect of our children best serves a patient's interests and properly reflects a physician's ethical duty to disclose.