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Medical Malpractice

Did You Know?

A Harvard Medical Practice Study estimated that each year more than 180,000 people die, at least in part, because of medical mistakes.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or health care provider does not treat a medical condition properly and, as a result, causes a new or aggravated injury to the patient. Every year, thousands of people are injured as a result of medical malpractice. The nonprofit organization Public Citizen estimates that, each year, 1.3 million injuries are caused by negligence, and that more than two-thirds of these are preventable.

Medical malpractice can occur through a health care provider's negligent action or inaction. Medical malpractice is considered to be negligent behavior by a doctor, nurse, hospital, HMO, chiropractor, therapist, or any other licensed medical care provider that results in harm to a patient. In many cases, the negative impacts of are felt not only by patients, but also by their loved ones.

Medical Malpractice Examples

  • Failure to perform medical procedures in a competent manner
  • Failure to order necessary tests or evaluate their results
  • Failure to posses or use necessary skills
  • Diagnosing an incorrect condition and pursuing the wrong treatment
  • Birth injury caused by failure to deliver a baby in a timely manner
  • Surgical- or anesthesia-related mishap during an operation
  • Failure to gain the "informed consent" of the patient for an operation or surgical procedure, i.e., failing to disclose to the patient the risks associated with the procedure
  • Failure to properly treat the disease process after making a correct diagnosis
  • Misuse of prescription drugs or a medical device or implant

Physicians are required to inform their patients of the projected effectiveness of any proposed treatment, and the possibility of negative side effects or other adverse outcomes. Thus, before a doctor can perform a procedure, prescribe a drug, or take any significant action, he must get the "informed consent" of the patient.

Medical Malpractice Facts

  • According to the Harvard Medical Practice Study, only one in eight malpractice victims ever files a claim for compensation.
  • A recent study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as many as 98,000 patients may be killed each year in hospitals alone as a result of medical errors
  • 2 million hospital patients acquire infections that result in 90,000 deaths each year
  • Only 8 percent of doctors (1 out of 12) with 2 or more malpractice payouts have been disciplined by their state medical board. (National Practitioner Data Bank, Sept. 1, 1990 - Sept. 30, 2002.)
  • Only 17 percent of doctors (1 out of 6) who have made 5 or more malpractice payouts have been disciplined by their state medical board. (National Practitioner Data Bank, Sept. 1, 1990 - Sept. 30, 2002.)

Medical Malpractice cases are, very complex, expensive to pursue, have a high risk of no recovery and often involve an "emotional" element due to the client's personal involvement. Medical Malpractice cases are also vigorously defended by the insurance companies since, under the terms of most policies, the medical provider involved must approve of any settlement. Doctors are frequently hesitant to agree to any settlements due to the potential negative affect such a settlement would have on their reputation and their practice.

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