There’s a nice story in the New York Times about a doctor who made one big mistake in his career (at 74, yet) and how he fared by apologizing.

It’s a good example of how to apologize in business, a topic that’s seen increasing play in the healthcare industry press for the past 5 years or so.

The husband of the woman whose rib was partially shaved off by mistake (not the picture above, that’s an electrode left in Maria Del Rossario Valdez after a Ceasarian section) gave a pretty succinct recipe:”be completely candid, completely honest, and so frank…that the anger was gone.”

Here were the offending doctor’s actual words:

“After all these years, I cannot give you any excuse whatsoever. It is just one of those things that occurred. I have to some extent harmed you.”

 It happens in healthcare that more patients sue for poor communication than for actual medical mistakes. There’s probablly a lesson in there for you even if you aren’t in the healthcare industry.


Medical malpractice as an epidemiological problem, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 59, Issue 1, July 2004, Pages 39-46, Michelle M. Mello and David Hemenway