Wherever you go today, stories about multimillion-dollar medical malpractice suits abound. Victims of medical negligence understandably want to pursue their rights to be compensated for injuries, disability and death occurring from medical mistakes or negligence.
Medical malpractice is described as “an act or omission by a health care provider which deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and which causes injury to the patient.” In more simple terms, medical malpractice is negligence on the part of a healthcare provider that causes injury, disability or death to the patient. Because medical professionals are legally and morally obligated to follow specific standards of care, medical malpractice results when human error or intentional neglect breeches that standard.
What is Being Done About Medical Malpractice?
Because the incidence of medical error has been on the rise, hospitals have begun to adopt policies to eliminate charges to the patient for treatment that results in preventable serious medical errors. These errors are known as “never events.” In fact, in August of 2007, Medicare stated it would no longer pay hospitals in cases where a procedure involved eight or more serious medical errors.
What constitutes a medical error? Here are just a few examples:
- Operating on the wrong person
- Operating on the wrong part of the body
- Anesthesia errors
- Prescription drug errors
- Failure to diagnose a life-threatening condition
- Failure to order the proper tests
- Patient abuse or neglect
Studying claims from 2004 to 2006, researchers at physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company The Doctors Company found that ‘system errors’ contributed to 30% of all settled claims. The most common problems were:
- Medication-related errors (32%)
- Communications errors (27%)
- Healthcare associated infections (18%)
- Medical records errors (13%)
- Identification errors or wrong site surgery (5%)
New legislation, called the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation (MEDiC) bill, highlights the need for better communication and full disclosure between medical providers and patients, but has not yet been approved. In the meantime, hospitals are taking matters into their own hands via a comprehensive program called The Safest Hospital Alliance, focusing on reducing errors by 80 percent.
Despite these best efforts on the part of Congress and the medical community at large, medical errors continue to occur at alarming rates. Victims of medical malpractice and their families do not want to wait while new laws and standards are enacted. They want justice now. And getting the justice they deserve requires the patience, expertise, skill and experience of an attorney highly qualified to pursue claims of medical malpractice.