To apologise, or not to apologise – Advice from PDL

Should you apologise if you make a dispensing error or if some other mishap occurs in the course of your practice as a pharmacist?


Curtis Ruhnau, Director of Pharmaceutical Defence Limited (PDL) provides the following advice on the giving of an apology:


There has traditionally been concern by some of PDL’s members that an apology could prejudice their ability to defend a subsequent complaint or lawsuit. It is the advice of PDL that an apology should be offered by a pharmacist if a dispensing error or other mishap has occurred in a pharmacy.  Evidence suggests that a sincere apology acknowledging an error actually lessens the likelihood of litigation and gives comfort to the consumer.

The law has actually been drafted in order to facilitate apologies while not prejudicing the health professional’s ability to defend a lawsuit. “All Australian jurisdictions since 2002 have passed legislation which prevents an apology from being deemed an admission, from being admitted into court and from determining liability.” (Vines, Prue: Sorry Saga of Apologies, MJA Insight 5 December 2011.)


The advice is clear, if there has been an error, first it should be reported to PDL on 1300 854 838 (24/7).  They will help you to understand your obligations and assist you in offering an appropriate apology which will make the consumer feel that their grievance has been heard, resulting in fewer complaints to the Pharmacy Board of Australia, the Pharmacy Council of NSW and any other authority dealing with these matters.


The Pharmacy Council recognises that pharmacists may utilise other professional indemnity insurance providers and advises that you contact your provider to check that your pharmacy procedures align with their advice.