Apologies by doctors or nurses that express fault or admission of liability cannot be used against health care providers in civil lawsuits, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week in a lawsuit against a Southwest Ohio doctor over a woman’s suicide death.
The court ruling in the case, related to a medical malpractice suit against a Clermont County doctor, resolved a split among Ohio appeals courts over the state’s “apology statute” and whether the term “apology” excluded a provider’s apology that included an admission of fault.
The court unanimously agreed that Ohio’s law shields apologies that include admissions of fault. However, two justices concluded that doctor’s statements were not an apology and the trial court should have allowed his comments to be presented in the case.
The Supreme Court stated that the majority decision, written by Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, affirmed rulings by lower courts not to admit the statements of Dr. Rodney E. Vivian in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought against him by the family of a woman who committed suicide in 2010. The woman was under Vivian’s care at Mercy Health-Clermont Hospital.
The court ruled that “a statement expressing apology” means a statement expressing a feeling of regret for an unanticipated outcome of the patient’s medical care, and may include an acknowledgment that the patient’s care was substandard.
The Court heard oral arguments on the matter at an April off-site court hearing in Morgan County.