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Patient Advocates Say New Program Curtails Doctor Lawsuits

<p><span style="line-height: 22.1000003814697px;">Hospital equipment at Good Samaritan hospital in Northwest Portland.&nbsp;</span></p>
Alan Sylvestre

Hospital equipment at Good Samaritan hospital in Northwest Portland. 

A new process designed to reduce medical mistakes and malpractice lawsuits attracted 29 participants in its first year.

In a nutshell, the "Early Discussion and Resolution" process gives doctors a way to apologize and explain what happened with a medical mistake, without fear that the explanation or apology will be used against them in any resulting lawsuit.

Bethany Walmsley of the Oregon Patient Safety Commission is pleased with participation.

“We’re very encouraged by the amount of engagement we’ve seen in the first year of a brand new program for Oregon," she said. "This is definitely an emerging practice that we’re pioneers on and hoping to lead the charge across the nation.”

It’s hard to know if 29 participants is a high or low number because no one knows how many medical mistakes happen each year in Oregon.

But The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that nationwide, about 400,000 deaths occur each year as a result of medical mistakes.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.