The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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WHY THEY ASK FOR THE RIGHT TO LIE WITH A FAKE APOLOGY
An interesting thing about those wanting the apology shield is the emotion that drove them to ask the Iowa legislature to enact the law. They were being greedy and in most situations where greed is the motivating force they will lose what they hoped to gain.
WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW WON'T KILL THEM
Before the apology shield law was enacted, the best thing the defense lawyers had going for them was they could control the doctors and what they said to the patients and those waiting for the patient. It was easy to just say, say nothing. Doctors are human, and as humans the words they speak are imprecise. Also like most people once they start talking they can’t resist saying one more thing. And it’s that one more thing that will cause all the problems.
And that’s the interesting thing about the English language, it’s very imprecise. And humans are very unpredictable.
So join me in listening to “Apologize”, by One Republic.
A Patient’s Guide to Dealing with the New Fake Medical Apologies
Today's apology is Chris Matthews apologizing for his characterization of Hillary Clinton's success in politics coming down to her husband's infidelity and that people must have felt sorry for her. It seems genuine to me.
Okay yesterday we talked about the importance of an apology and why these new fake apology laws for the medical profession are bad medicine for the community. Today let’s talk about what to do when you’re the patient and are confronted with the fake apology.
FAKING OUT THE FAKERS
Say you’re the patient or the patient’s relative who is on the receiving end of the fake apology. You’re standing outside of the surgical suite, the surgeon emerges looking glum and you hear the surgeon utter the fake apology words, “I’m sorry, but I ______________. “(fill in the blank with your basic never-event medical mistake like wrong-site, wrong-side, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient, wrong-kidney removed, wrong-finger amputate, wrong-leg amputated, wrong-knee operated on, wrong-side of the brain drilled into, wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong-whatever – The list is long and excruciatingly mind-numbing. ). Your immediate reaction is to listen, but at this moment in time, for the sake of your BFF, the patient, you need to be ready to go on the offensive. So listen first then get ready for some follow up questions during the Q&A period. This is important because what you have to know is that not every word spoken may later be classified as part of a fake apology.
My guess is the doctor expects you to first be in shock and then to be forgiving him/her. Those making fake apologies really believe you’re stupid enough to take it at face value and walk with them down to the fake hospital chapel to ask God for forgiveness. What the doctor doesn’t expect is for you to be listening and be ready with a series of questions that go beyond the apology head-fake. An honest and sincerely apologizing doctor will answer your questions; the dishonestly insincere ones will clam up like a jewel thief talking to the cop on the beat right after he’s broken in and is heading out of your apartment.
To fully appreciate this point I need you to be in the right frame of mind. So think about this situation as if the doctor were your teenage son or daughter who violated curfew, brought the car home sans the hubcaps, covered in mud and with the entire passenger side scraped and dented. You know that feeling you get when you hear them say, “I’m sorry, I hope you’re not mad.” It’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Not on your life buster/missy, it’s not going to be that easy.” Yes, that one; that’s the frame of mind you’ll need to be in when you hear the apology coming your way from the medical community.
Okay now that I’ve reengineered your thinking let’s go over the questions. As you look the doctor squarely in the eye reach down to your pants pocket and turn on the recorder. You did bring a recorder didn’t you? Okay, I’ll cover that in a later post. You should have a medical apology digital voice recorder that you keep in your pocket. Practice turning it on and off in at home in your living room before ever accompanying someone to surgery. Get a Sharpie and write on the case, “Fake Apology Meter”.
So now the doc has said the words of apology and he/she is looking at you waiting for you to say, “That’s okay my wife didn’t need the healthy kidney anyway. How else can we save you money? Would you like to do surgery on me?” But instead you’re going to ask these questions.
1. What did you do wrong?
2. Who made the mistake?
3. What is the mistake that was made?
4. Did you read the chart before starting the surgery?
5. Why not?
6. You do know your left from your right, don’t you?
7. How much sleep did you get last night?
8. During the surgery were you drunk or on drugs?
9. Was it because you were in a hurry to get to another operation, the golf course or a vacation?
10. Who else is involved with making this mistake?
11. Why didn’t any of other members of the surgical team point out you were operating on the wrong _________? (Again fill in the blank.)
12. Tell me again why the mistake was made that led to my friend’s injury/death?
13. Will you or the hospital be charging the patient for this procedure?
14. Tell me again why the mistake was made that led to my friend’s injury/death?
15. Will you be putting all of this information in your surgical report?
Okay, I realize you can’t ask 15 questions, but you can ask the first 3 and if the doctor is willing to engage with you then keep asking questions. Hey remember, he/she started this apology dialogue, not you. He/she is the one getting paid the big bucks while ruining your BBF’s life. All your family asked for was honest professional medical work, not taking out the wrong kidney along with a head-fake apology.
WHY ASK QUESTIONS
You’ll ask questions because, not every word spoken as an “apology” may later be considered to be part of an apology. The more they say the less likely the judge is to later find it as an apology.
WHY IS THE DIGITAL RECORDER A NECESSARY MEDICAL INSTRUMENT?
In order to protect ourselves every patient and working man and woman who is involved with a surgery needs with them a standard hand-held battery operated recording device as part of your hospital-stay overnight bag. You should pack your family’s medical recording device right in with your toothbrush. It should be a part of every patient’s arsenal that we are using to bring honesty back into medicine. The honest doctors won’t mind, it’s the dishonest one’s who deserve it.
Now tomorrow I’ll tell you why it’s important to our children that we record the fake apology.
After making a mistake why should medical professionals want to apologize? How about because it’s the right thing to do and you’ll sleep better at night having set the record straight with the person who was injured by your professional mistake. Publicly setting the record straight is important to a good professional reputation. At least it used to be.
But apologizing goes beyond merely the two people involved. There used to be the idea of setting a good example for those who come after us. And then there is the apology shield and what it teaches young doctors and medical students. How do the young people in society interpret what we’ve just done with this legal fabrication? They see it as one more official lie that those in power and those who support it have created. It’s just another double standard that speaks and reeks of hypocrisy. All this says is that those with sufficient earning power can get away with anything, even lying to a jury. And don’t disagree with me on this point because that’s exactly what this is, it’s a license to lie. When a doctor makes a mistake, then apologizes and latter gets to tell the jury he/she did nothing wrong, it’s nothing more than a big fat lie. And at trial it’s officially called lying under oath; but the law allows it. If this were Monopoly it’s the get out of jail free card. If I were a judge, I’d say, not in my court room. You’re not going to lie in my courtroom, neither unofficially or officially. The law is an ass.
THIS IS THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONS WEAPON OF MASS SELF-DESTRCUTION
From now on what happens to the real apologies, the ones that were sincere? They go right up in smoke. No longer can any patient believe any doctor’s apology. We can’t tell who is apologizing because their conscience is bothering them and who’s doing so because the hospital legal staff said, “Go apologize.” The joke is on the medical community. By not speaking out against the apology shield legislation the entire medical community looks and sounds seedy and greedy.
Somewhere along the way the medical community lost some of their sincerity and if they don’t start rethinking about who is in charge they risk losing all self-respect.
You see free apologies really aren’t all that free. A free-market apology costs something or at least places the apologizer at risk. But with this apology right out of a socialist bible there is not a cost to the person who publicly speaks the words of apology. Sort of like an apology from a communist leader who can’t lose your vote even if he/she refuses to say I’m sorry. The apology shield is another sign of America becoming more and more like a Communist country, a Godless regime without a soul. Welcome to the new America, one in which I make every apology.
Hopefully our mother’s and father’s taught us that after you do something wrong you should apologize. The apology is meant to communicate a sincere feeling of remorse. We are taught the act of apologizing is a learning tool, for the wrongdoer. The person apologizing does so to affect their own conscience while conveying sincerity to the person wronged. The act of apologizing is a character building event.
But, where the person apologizing has nothing to lose, it isn’t really sincere; meaning for an apology to mean anything there has to be costs, or negatives and risks. That’s how we learn and along the way to build good character and hopefully a solid reputation.
Recently we’ve seen major celebrities in situations that created the need to apologize. Serena Williams could be seen at the U.S. Open Tennis Center verbally assaulting the linesman with curses that I’m sure made her handlers and endorsers must have cringed. She was disqualified by penalty points, which didn’t bring an immediate apology, but the next day she took to the airwaves in a more apologetic mode.
Most of the video on YouTube has been removed. I wonder why? I did find one.
And then there was the Rapper Kanye West’s interruption and outburst when Taylor Swift’s video won at the MTV Video Music Awards that sent him to apologize on the Jay Leno show.
And the last is Congressman Joe Wilson interrupting the President during is address to the Congress. Congressman Wilson later apologized.
Interesting how most of the Serena Williams outbursts were removed from YouTube. I didn’t believe either the Williams or the Wilson apologies. I did believe Kanye West.
So what’s wrong with the Williams and Wilson conciliatory words following their errors of judgment? Kanye West speaks his words and really seems to mean them. The words of neither Serena Williams nor Joe Wilson seem genuine. Words just aren’t enough. Each seems to lack character.
Tomorrow I’d like to talk about the medical community’s character when it comes to the apology shield. The apology shield is a sign of the widening crack in American character.