By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Is it always legally advisable to say “I’m sorry?”

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Last month, Wisconsin followed in the footsteps of 37 other states when it passed what’s become known as an ‘I’m sorry’ statute.

Under the law, statements made by a doctor who expresses sympathy to a patient or patient’s family who had a bad outcome in a medical procedure can not be admitted into court. The apology laws are premised on the notion that part of a patient’s compulsion to file a medical malpractice lawsuit stems from never hearing a doctor who may or may not have made a mistake take responsibility and offer condolences. Doctors had been afraid in the past to tell a patient that he’s sorry for the bad outcome for fear that the statement would be taken as an admission of malpractice liability so these laws aim to take away the doctor’s fear of lawsuit, and in so doing actually lowering the number of suits filed.

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But, it is important to note that not all of the I’m sorry statutes are created equal.

Pennsylvania’s law, which was passed in October of 2013, only protects expressions of sympathy – ‘I’m so sorry that you had a bad outcome here’ – and does not protect a statement like ‘I am sorry I messed up and caused you pain’ since an admission of guilt or fault would be admissible, unlike Wisconsin’s new law that protects any statement of sympathy or fault.

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The bottom line is that while your mother always says to say I’m sorry, if you are a doctor it is still advisable to talk to a lawyer in your state to make sure your are protected legally – but morally it’s between you, your patient, and your mother’s wisdom to decide.