Governor signs Marleau’s health care “I’m sorry” legislation

LANSING–Michigan health care providers will be able to express sympathy for the pain, suffering, or death of their patients without the comments being used against them in a court of law under legislation signed by the governor on Tuesday, said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Marleau.

“It is natural and compassionate to say ‘I’m sorry’ to someone who is suffering. Health care providers will now be protected from misguided lawsuits when they do,” said Marleau, R-Lake Orion, who sponsored Public Act 21 (Senate Bill 53) with bipartisan support. “This new law will benefit patients and families, health care providers, and the quality of care in Michigan.”

Marleau said those who work in health care are usually discouraged by their lawyers and insurance representatives from expressing sympathy or even speaking to a patient.

However, Michigan hospitals that have implemented similar policies have reduced medical malpractice lawsuits and the number of medical errors from health care providers. Health care costs are on the rise, but saying “I’m sorry” creates real savings and improves quality of care.

The University of Michigan has implemented a similar “I’m sorry” policy, and according to a 2009 article published by the school’s attorney, there has been a 40 percent reduction in new lawsuits filed by patients, which has cut its litigation costs in half. The school also said the policy helps in correcting mistakes and training to prevent future errors.

Several other states have passed similar legislation.

Editor’s note: A photograph of Sen. Marleau with Gov. Snyder at the bill signing will be available today by clicking the Photowire link at