New Law Reduces Legal Barriers To Apologies

    McGuinty Government Proposes Apology Act

    TORONTO, Oct. 7 /CNW/ -


    Today the McGuinty government is introducing legislation that would allow
people and organizations to apologize without fear of the apology being used
against them. Being able to offer a sincere apology without legal consequences
can take away hard feelings, help resolve disputes, and reduce the number of
lengthy, costly lawsuits.

    The Apology Act would, if passed:
    -   Allow individuals and organizations, such as hospitals and other
        public institutions, to apologize for an accident or wrongdoing,
        without it being used as evidence of liability in a civil legal
        proceeding under provincial law
    -   Help victims by acknowledging that harm has been done to them - an
        apology is often key to the healing process
    -   Promote accountability, transparency and patient safety by allowing
        open and frank discussions between patients and health care providers
    -   Enhance the affordability and speed of the justice system by
        fostering the resolution of civil disputes and shortening or avoiding

    The proposed legislation would not affect a victim's right to sue, or
their right to compensation for harm done.


    "The goal of the legislation is to encourage sincere apologies - saying
sorry for a mistake or wrongdoing is the right thing to do," said Attorney
General Chris Bentley. "David Orazietti's private member's bill has led the
way on this government initiative."
    "The Apology Act is an important step for the health care community,"
said David Caplan, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "It would allow
health care professionals to deal openly and honestly with patients and their
families and improve patient safety in Ontario."
    "I am extremely pleased that our government is moving forward with
legislation that would allow all Ontarians to communicate genuine compassion,
sorrow and regret for a mistake without worrying that it could later be used
against them in civil court," said Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti, who
introduced the issue in a Private Member's Bill.

    -   Apologies have been promoted and supported in many jurisdictions as a
        way to reduce suffering and to facilitate dispute resolution.
    -   British Columbia passed its Apology Act in May 2006, followed by
        Saskatchewan in May 2007, through an amendment to its Evidence Act,
        and Manitoba in November 2007.
    -   Most Australian states and over 30 US states have enacted some form
        of apology legislation.


    Read about how a government bill becomes law

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    Under current law, people and organizations can be reluctant to apologize
for an accident or wrongdoing, out of fear that the apology will be used
against them as evidence of liability in a civil court proceeding. This
reluctance to apologize harms the relations between people and can lead to
bitterness and increased litigation.
    Being able to offer a sincere apology without legal consequences can help
resolve disputes and reduce the number of lengthy, costly lawsuits. For a
victim, a timely apology is often an important step in the healing process and
a potential springboard to discussions to settle disputes.


    This Apology Act would, if passed, apply to all Ontarians, as well as
courts, tribunals, arbitrators and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies.
It would apply to legal proceedings, such as civil lawsuits, administrative
proceedings and professional discipline matters.
    This legislation would help the effectiveness of the justice system by
removing barriers to settlement discussions. In the health care setting, the
proposed legislation would, if passed, contribute to improving communication
and relations between patients and health care professionals.
    The proposed legislation would also promote humane and civil personal
relationships, and contribute to stronger communities and a higher quality of
life for all Ontarians.
    The Apology Act, if passed, would not affect a victim's right to sue, or
their right to compensation for harm done. It would not allow a wrongdoer to
escape the consequences of the wrong, nor would it affect any criminal
prosecution where the accused person has apologized, since such prosecutions
take place under federal law.

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                       INTRODUCTION OF THE APOLOGY ACT


    "Recent studies show that physicians and nurses want to apologize when an
error is made, but worry that an expression of regret, an apology, might be
construed by the patient and the family as an admission of legal liability;
and this is in fact, not necessarily the case," said Phil Hassen, CEO of the
Canadian Patient Safety Institute. "The proposed Apology Act, consistent with
our Canadian Disclosure Guidelines, released earlier this year, aims to
increase transparent and open communication among health care professionals,
patients and the public, and is an important and consistent step forward for
the people of Ontario. What we're seeing is a cultural shift, which recognizes
that offering a sincere apology or expression of regret is simply the right
thing to do. It is a sign of caring, compassion and empathy - not blame or
    "We are very supportive of this legislation," said Doris Grinspun,
Executive Director of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario. "As
nurses, we know that an apology can be central to the healing process and, in
health care, essential to promoting accountability and open communication."
    "Ontario's hospitals support this legislation because it encourages
natural, open and direct dialogue after injuries or adverse events, and allows
people to engage in the moral and humane act of apologizing," said Tom
Closson, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association.
    "Ontario doctors support the concept of apology legislation and look
forward to reviewing it," said Dr. Ken Arnold, President of the Ontario
Medical Association. "We believe it will enhance the ability of doctors and
nurses to focus on patient needs during difficult times."
    "Apology legislation would help to foster better communication and more
compassionate relations between potential litigants," said Jamie Trimble,
President of the Ontario Bar Association. "An apology should not be something
that can be used in a lawsuit later on to establish the liability of another
party, nor should it be able to be used by one party to prevent the ability of
another to seek justice."

                                                      Disponible en français

For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the
Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210; Steve Erwin, Ministry
of Health and Long-Term Care, Minister's Office, (416) 326-3986; Mark Nesbitt,
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Communications Branch, (416) 314-6197

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