The Senate approved a measure allowing health care professionals to apologize for an error without fear of it coming up later as part of a medical malpractice action.

Besides the medical community, the business community also backs the passage of S 379 as part of a series of changes in tort law they are pushing for.

“Oftentimes, people don’t realize there is no apology because professionals are afraid it will come up later in a lawsuit,” one business leader said. “Just getting the apology would reduce the number of lawsuits.”

S 379 makes any benevolent gesture made prior to the commencement of a medical liability action by a health care provider, assisted living residence or personal-care home inadmissible as evidence of liability or an admission against interest. A benevolent gesture is any action that conveys a sense of apology, explanation or compassion emanating from humane impulses related to the discomfort, pain, suffering, injury or death of a patient.

“Apology has proven a dramatically effective way of resolving conflict and preventing litigation,” said Senator Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, one of the sponsors of the bill. “Recent studies have shown once given an explanation and apology, many patients and families decide not to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.”

According to Vance, 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have provisions allowing medical professionals to make apologies or sympathetic gestures. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

— J.L.K. •