Dos and don’ts

PLP recommends that members be familiar with Ontario’s Apology Act, which provides that an apology is not an admission of wrongdoing.

It is important to note that a bad apology can do more harm than none at all. An expression of concern that comes across as insincere may only inflame the situation. Being defensive or “blaming the victim” undermines and may even neutralize the value of an apology. A good apology is timely, heartfelt and unqualified.

That said, an apology does not have to include an acknowledgement of blame or responsibility to be effective. Practitioners should be careful to avoid language such as “malpractice,” “negligence” “error” or “liability” in either disclosing or apologizing for an adverse treatment outcome. Statements such as “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “I regret that things did not turn out as we had hoped” can go a long way toward maintaining or repairing the dentist-patient relationship without implying culpability.

Any member requiring assistance in determining an appropriate response to an adverse event should contact PLP or the Practice Advisory Service for guidance.