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Surgeon Apologizes to Patient for Leaving Sponge

After surgery, Charles Utley of San Diego discovered a swollen bump on his backside. It didn't subside as he healed. Utley soon discovered that his surgeon had left a sponge behind while sewing him up.

Rachel Zimmerman, in The Wall Street Journal says, "Even when doctors make mistakes this egregious, they customarily refuse to admit it, lest they encourage patients to sue." It's called "defend and deny."

But Utley's doctor did something astonishing. "I was responsible," the surgeon told him. "I apologize for this." Utley decided not to sue, explaining that his doctor had "honored me as a human being." Other doctors and hospitals, The Journal reports, are also discovering that "an authentically offered apology" does wonders heading off lawsuits. Patients, they're finding, can accept the fact that doctors are fallible. What infuriates them—and drives them to seek revenge—is when doctors say, "What sponge? I don't remember any sponge."

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