In our last post, we began looking at the growing recognition of the power of apologizing in the field of medical care. Honest communication and expressions of sympathy can go a long way in preventing medical malpractice litigation, and many states have passed measures explicitly protecting such communications from being used against a physician in court.
Ultimately, the goal of any medical malpractice case is to prove it is more likely than not that the defendant breached an established standard of care and thereby caused harm to the patient. Although Mississippi does not have a statute that explicitly discriminate between expressions of sympathy and admissions of fault, sympathetic expressions are probably not often critical to a medical malpractice case. Admissions of fault, of course, are stronger and can help establish medical malpractice liability, but admissions of fault are not necessarily going to be admitted as evidence at trial.
Under the Mississippi Rules of Evidence, hearsay is generally not admissible, but admissions are not considered to be hearsay, so they may be admitted at trial. The rules specify that a physician statement concerning the cause or external source of a patient’s condition may be admitted to trial if it can be shown that the statement is deemed trustworthy, but statements concerning fault are excludible in Mississippi. The net result is that sympathetic expressions may be admissible at trial in a Mississippi medical malpractice case, but statements of fault may not be. The situation may be the exact opposite in some other states.
Patients, of course, should always work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to effectively navigate any evidentiary issues in their medical malpractice case and to ensure they have the best possible advocacy in pursuing a resolution to their case and that their rights are protected.