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Diagnosing the Causes of Medical Malpractice

| Jan 5, 2016 | Medical Malpractice |

A patient visits their physician in a time of great need. Whether for treating a back injury, or removing a cancerous tumor, a patient must be able to trust their physician with their health. In some cases, their very lives are at stake. It’s a great responsibility that is increasingly being neglected and ignored.

According to statistics compiled by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, it was estimated that 98,000 Americans died as the result of medical malpractice every year. In a follow-up study conducted in 2010 by the Office of the Inspector General for Health & Human Services, that number had risen to 188,000. While these statistics are troubling, the bombshell report came in 2013 when the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that the actual number is between 210,000 and 440,000.

Malpractice Leading to Lawsuits

The Medscape Malpractice Report for 2015 has just been released. The survey asked physicians to detail the reasons leading to the medical malpractice suits they have defended themselves in. Not surprisingly, the survey is aligned with the most common types of medical malpractice patients have faced.

  • Failure to Diagnose – 31% of physicians stated they had been a defendant in a suit where they were charged with failing to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. These conditions included failing to identify underlying conditions exacerbating primary conditions. It also includes failing to diagnose serious, potentially lethal conditions.
  • Patient Suffered Abnormal Injury – 31% of physicans polled indicated they had been sued for injuring a patient during the administration of treatment. These suits included wrong site surgery, etc.
  • Failure to Treat – 12% of physicians were sued for failing to treat a patient’s medical condition, or for flat out refusing to treat a patient.
  • Poor Documentation – 4% of suits were filed because physicians failed to properly document a patient’s medical care. It also included failure to educate the patient on courses of treatment available, or proper care/management of medical conditions.
  • Medication Errors – 4% of physicians were sued beause they failed to properly administer medication, anesthetic, etc.
  • Failure to Follow Safety Procedures – 3% of physicians were sued by patients alleging their physicians failed to adhere to universal safety procedures. These procedures are in place to protect patients, and failure to follow them can cause serious injury or death.
  • Lack of Proper, Informed Consent  – 3% of lawsuits filed cited the failure of physicians to obtain the necessary permissions prior to administering treatment. These included willfilly ignoring power of attorney documentation and advanced healthcare directives.

Most Commonly Cited Reasons for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

The study indicated that the following were the most common causes patients chose to file suit against their physician(s):

  • Injuries leading to death or serious impairment during surgery
  • Acquiring postoperative infections or infections while being treated within a hospital
  • Late or misdiagnosis of cancer
  • Misdiagnosed cardiac emergencies
  • Birth defects and/or fetal death
  • Falls suffered within healthcare facilities
  • Medical errors

By Specialty

The report showed what Chicago medical practice attorneys have known for a long time. Namely, that there is a pattern of medical malpractice that is afflicting certain specialties. This pattern goes beyond the complexity and difficulty of the specialty itself. Indeed, the statistics show that certain specialties are responsible for the majority of medical malpractice claims. The following were the results of the survey showing which specialties were most likely to be responsible for a medical malpractice event.

  • 85% of OB/GYN & Women’s Health Physicians
  • 83% of Surgeons
  • 79% of Orthopedists
  • 72% of Radiologists
  • 58% of Anesthesiologists
  • 46% of Intenal Medicine/Family Medicine Physicians
  • 34% of Oncologists

Interesting Findings

The study also reviewed the results of the lawsuits which were filed.

  • 28% were settled following depositions
  • 16% went to trial and a verdict was rendered in the case
  • 4% went to trial and were settled prior to a verdict being reached

Overall, nearly 32% of all medical malpractice lawsuits that were filed were settled prior to reaching trial. Further, 68% of Oncologists stated they felt the outcome of their lawsuits was fair. For all other specialties, it was nearly an even 50/50 split.

Takeaway for Patients

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is a big decision. Before making it, patients should speak with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can help a patient who has suffered medical malpractice prepare for their case. This includes preparing documentation, researching the applicable statutes, and making sure that the case is as solid and thorough as possible before it reaching trial.

These statistics show that medical malpractice is a growing problem that is costing patient’s their health. In too many cases, it is costing them their lives. However, these statistics also show that the court systems are working and that those who file medical malpractice lawsuits are receiving fair and just compensation for their injuries.