Disclosure Resources Appendix 1: Empathetic and Non-Empathetic Statements

This is an appendix to The Doctors Company's Disclosure Resources.

Examples—Empathetic Statements to Use:

  1. This must be a difficult time, but my staff and I will be working to help you through this.
  2. I was saddened to hear of your loss, and my staff and I send our condolences.
  3. Remember when we talked about some of the risks that can’t be anticipated or prevented? Well, this is one of those instances. But there are several actions that we’re going to take to help you, and we’ll answer your questions so that you and your family are aware of what we’re doing.
  4. This is obviously a horrible time for you.
  5. I am going to do all I can to find out why this happened, and I will keep you informed about what I learn.
  6. I know you’re angry—I’d like to take a minute to talk about what I think happened and then answer any and all questions you might have.
  7. I cannot tell you how sorry I am that this happened; I promise you that we will (explain what you’re going to do now) and that we are doing everything possible to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
  8. I am very sorry I failed to change your medication dosage as I said I would; this is probably the reason for your headaches and dizziness.
  9. As I reviewed your medical record last night, I realized that I wrote the wrong order for your child’s immunization. The nurse administered a flu shot instead of the measles vaccine. I need for you to bring her back in so she can get the right injection. The flu immunization will not harm her since the dosage was appropriate for her age and body weight.
  10. I’m calling you because as I reviewed your medical record after you left my office yesterday, I realized that I ordered the wrong dose of your antidepressant. I meant to order Effexor 75 mgm daily, and I wrote 75 mgm twice daily. I am calling the revised prescription into your pharmacy today. Don’t worry if you took two doses yesterday. Just don’t take a second one today. This should not cause you any harm.

Examples—Non-Empathetic Statements to Avoid:

  1. I know how you feel.
  2. Try to cheer up. These things happen.
  3. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.
  4. Try to pull yourself together.
  5. It looks like you’ll just have to tough it out.
  6. I’m sorry you feel that way.
  7. Perhaps this is God’s will.
  8. Anybody could have screwed this up.
  9. It wasn’t entirely our fault. If your loved one had taken better care of himself...
  10. You will just have to learn to adjust.
  11. You’re a tough person—I’m sure you’ve been through worse.
  12. Don’t get so excited—these things happen.
  13. If you had rehabbed your knee properly, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
  14. You’re an educated person—you should have known that somebody screwed up your medication dosage.
  15. You know how nurses are—they don’t pay attention—that’s why your child received the wrong antibiotic yesterday in the office.
  16. Well, this is what happened—my receptionist, whom I fired over this—filed your mammogram results in the chart without giving them to me. Of course, that was last year and the mammogram results from last week show something that was also on your mammogram last year. Now, don’t get upset; these things happen.
  17. It looks like this is a melanoma on your forehead. My PA didn’t tell me about your coming in six months ago, or I would have done a biopsy then. If I had, you would have been fine. No worries—we’ll send you to a surgeon.

The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.