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Modified Version of “Benevolent Gesture” Statute Passed by PA Senate

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Following a hearing last month, the Pennsylvania Senate has passed the Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act.  Under the Act, statements and acts of contrition by healthcare providers, if made prior to the initiation of medical malpractice litigation, will be inadmissible in subsequent legal proceedings.

Formerly known as Senate Bill 379, the Act had been previously tabled in the Senate through the end of the 2012 legislative session after being passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2011.  In its original form, the Act prohibited the admission of not only benevolent gestures by healthcare providers, but also admissions of fault or negligence.  While sixteen other states have already passed laws deeming such statements to be inadmissible, the bill came under fire in the Senate, as critics argued that it would have prohibited an apology by a physician who had "been on an all-night bender and who revealed that his or her mental state might have contributed to a medical error."  The Act was therefore modified to exclude admissions of fault or negligence, therefore making them potentially admissible in medical malpractice proceedings.

With a new version in place, the bill will now return to the House of Representatives for approval.  Hearings are slated to be conducted sometime in the Fall of 2013.

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