Georgia legislators are considering a bill that one state representative hopes will save other families the pain she suffered when her husband died eight years ago. State Rep. Sharon Cooper of Marietta said her husband had some adverse medical events prior to his death. She added, “Nobody ever came and talked to me about [them].”
The proposed legislation, called the Georgia CANDOR Act, is intended to make health care professionals less fearful of the consequences of admitting errors to patients and family members and improve doctor-patient communication. Rep. Cooper, who is the chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee, introduced the bill late last year. She recently oversaw a day-long hearing, which included doctors and attorneys who discussed the potential implications of the legislation.
What exactly would the CANDOR Act do?
Under the CANDOR (Communication and Optimal Resolution) Act, a medical provider or facility would be able to notify a patient that they want to discuss a problem. This must be done within six months of discovering the problem. If the patient agrees to the discussion, they waive the right to use the discussion as evidence in a malpractice suit. However, they can leave the discussion at any time and file a lawsuit.
The idea is that the provider would fully explain what happened and what steps they were taking to prevent it from happening again. In some cases, the parties may agree on a settlement.
Communication has been shown to reduce litigation
Studies have shown that malpractice suits significantly decrease when medical providers explain, apologize for and (if possible) resolve adverse events. One Atlanta anesthesiologist who led one of those studies said that doctors are typically advised not to talk to the patient about what went wrong. She said the overriding strategy now is “deny, delay, defend.”
Another doctor, who specializes in patient safety, said his data shows that when doctors share information with patients, they build trust and help keep them and their families from feeling shut out. He said, “Every hour that goes by without effective communication following serious harm is another harm, and it feels intentional.”
If you believe that an error or negligence led to the harm or death of a loved one, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to determine what your options are and certainly before accepting any settlement.