In the US, medical doctors have been advised for years by lawyers not apologize if patients complained about them. An apology, the lawyers used to explain, indicates admission of culpability and acts as invitation for a malpractice lawsuit. Massachusetts was the first State to adopt what is called an apology law in the mid 80s. It is a law that stipulates that an apology made by a medical practitioner to a patient may not be used against the practitioner in the court of law. Apology laws, which give legal permission for doctors to apologise to patients for their mistakes, have since been passed in most States in USA. It has been estimated that such laws have brought huge savings to the medical establishment through reducing the number of malpractice suits, increasing the number of resolved cases and decreasing the amount of moneys paid in compensation.
Apology is strong medicine. It impacts human relationships and contributes to psychological well being of both the victim and the perpetrator. It restores harmony by suspending anger and resentment. The positive psychology movement has convinced most of us that forgiveness is not only beneficial for resolving conflicts but actually an essential ingredient of human happiness.