The Apology Act, 2009

While most health practitioners understand the rationale behind and accept the duty to disclose adverse events, there is often reluctance ongoing reticence to apologize to patients when treatment does not turn out as planned.

The benefits of disclosing and expressing sympathy for unexpected clinical developments are the same: both demonstrate respect for the patient and may assist in the healing process. But the barriers are also similar. They include fear of a lawsuit or College complaint, loss of malpractice protection, diminished reputation, and shame, guilt or embarrassment.

In 2009, the Ontario government passed a law aimed at eliminating some of these impediments. According to the Apology Act, 2009, an apology, an  expression of sympathy or regret,   or any other words or actions indicating contrition or commiseration:

  • does not constitute an admission of fault or liability;
  • does not, despite any wording to the contrary in any insurance contract, void or otherwise affect any insurance or indemnity coverage;
  • cannot be taken into account in determining fault or liability;
  • is not admissible in any arbitration, civil or administrative proceeding as evidence of fault or liability.