Do Stronger Medical Malpractice Laws Prevent Surgical Errors?

 

Medical malpractice laws are designed to protect patients and influence doctors to provide only quality, safe care.  Unfortunately, the staggering number of surgical errors that occur every year continues to beg the question “do stronger medical malpractice laws prevent surgical errors”? New research suggests that the answer to this question is, “not necessarily”.

Surgical Error

New Research and Medical Malpractice Laws

Researchers at the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine recently examined data on medical malpractice insurance premiums, number of claims per 100 physicians, and average award size.  Using data from 2010, researchers examined complications or repeat operations (within 30 days), and odds of death among patients using Medicare.

This state-specific research suggested that the threat of litigation does not translate into better outcomes for patients.  Instead, researchers assert that an aggressive malpractice environment could actually result in defensive medical practices where testing and treatment options are ordered unnecessarily in an effort to minimize malpractice risk.

What This Research Means for Patients

In total, around 890,000 Medicare members across 3,200 hospitals in the U.S.  were included in the study.  Around half of those included were 74 years old or older.  In states where doctors were most likely to face litigation  patients were:

  • 9 times more likely to develop pneumonia
  • 15 percent more likely to suffer kidney failure
  • 18 percent more likely to experience gastrointestinal bleeding
  • 22 percent more likely to develop sepsis (life-threatening infection of the bloodstream)

These outcomes reinforce increasing evidence that current tort reforms are not necessarily associated with better patient outcomes.  What this new research does not prove, however, is how specific laws affect specific outcomes.  It is also unclear whether outcomes were affected by specific state laws or policies directly.

What the research does prove is that the issue of medical and surgical errors extends beyond the scope of doctor liability and accountability or punishment measures.  Also, because malpractice and surgical errors are often specific to particular fields or specializations, more research is needed to truly understand the relationship between medical malpractice laws and surgical errors.

After a surgical error, it is never too early to contact an attorney about defending your legal rights and getting the compensation you deserve.  If you have questions about medical malpractice laws and your health, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers today to speak with one of our skilled attorneys.

Too Many Patients at Risk – Not Enough Safeguards

In a previous post titled “Surgical Errors are More Common than you Might Think” we discussed the staggering number of surgical errors that occur every year. We also discussed the most common causes of surgical errors and prevention strategies.  The research discussed in this post reiterates the fact that surgical errors occur far too frequently. What’s more, there is often little or no compensation for those who are injured.  Tort reforms limit a patient’s ability to file a lawsuit and place damage caps that may only compensate a successful plaintiff a small percentage of the damage he or she suffered.

Many patients who suffer from medical malpractice or surgical errors are too intimidated by the process to pursue legal action.  This unfortunately results in a great deal of injured patients, doctors putting more lives at risk, and a healthcare system that is broken.

Understanding Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are considered “never events” because, well, they should never happen.  The reality, however, is that they do and far too frequently.  Some estimates suggest that surgical errors occur as often as 80 times per week across U.S.  hospitals.  With around 50 million operations performed every year, that breaks down to one surgical error occurring in every 12,248 operations.

There are strict protocols designed to prevent surgical errors.  Patients need to be confident that the protocols are being followed and enforced.  Surgeons and operating room staff have the responsibility of ensuring that patient rights are not violated, and that every possible step is taken to prevent errors.

How to Get Help

The prospect of filing a complaint or lawsuit after a surgical error can be intimidating.  You may feel hurt, angry, lost, or overwhelmed.  The first step you should take is contacting a medical malpractice attorney who is familiar with surgical error cases.  Even though it is intimidating, you should always speak up for your legal rights and pursue justice after medical malpractice or a surgical error.

At Brown Wharton & Brothers, you will find the knowledge, experience, and compassion you need to move forward with your medical malpractice claim with confidence.  Our attorneys are passionate about helping victims of medical malpractice or negligence understand their situation and get the best outcome possible.

Contact us today to get answers to your questions.  With our no-obligation case review, one of our attorneys will work with you to review your case and explore the best options for you and your family.  Fill out our online form and our office will get back in touch with you promptly.

Sources:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-surgery-malpractice-laws-idUSKBN15B1NM

http://www.amednews.com/article/20130121/profession/130129976/2