Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Aren't Just About Money

Posted on Jun 24, 2014


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It is a common misconception that any lawsuit is solely 'about the money'. Do not get me wrong, money is critically important to make up for the harms and losses people suffer when they are victims of preventable medical mistakes. It provides nursing care, access to specialists, wheelchair accessible vans and other practical, necessary goods and services.  But medical malpractice--is about much more than money.

Take this case, for example.  A doctor named Karen who lives outside of Washington, DC rushed to Florida when she got a call that her mother was taken to a hospital near the assisted living facility. Her mother was diagnosed and treated, but she did not see any signs of her mother getting better. Being a doctor herself, she was able to observe this, but limited in her options because she is not licensed in Florida.

According to reports, Karen tracked down the doctor who treated her mother so he could adjust her medication and requested that he come in to see her mother again. The doctor refused to come in due to a holiday weekend, apparently saying he ''needed a vacation too" reported Forbes. What else was she to do? Find another doctor who would examine her mother and adjust her mother's medications.

Karen's next call was to an attorney. She wasn't necessarily looking for monetary compensation for the pain and suffering of her mother; as a doctor she wanted the system to be fixed. In her case, a lawsuit was not the way to go - instead she filed a formal complaint with the Joint Commissioner on accreditation. However formal complaints, even from a doctor, do not have a great impact.

In 2004, Dr. Donald Berwick, president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, launched a campaign called' "100,000 Lives Campaign". In this campaign, hospitals were asked to commit to six evidence-based interventions that would save lives, and determine how these reforms helped. 

Forbes reported that if only 2300 hospitals participated and implemented at least one of the changes--the organizer estimated that 122,300 lives would be saved. Two years later Dr. Berwick launched another campaign called "5 Million Lives", and again few hospitals participated--only 2000 implemented all 12 safety interventions. What his campaigns showed was that hospitals are hesitant to change and often times--resist it.

Our civil justice system provides a way to change the systmes doctors, hospitals and HMOs use when those systems, procedures and protocols don't put patient safety first. And the negative publicity that is accompanied with high profile medical malpractice cases, even if just within the healthcare system or physicians at a certain hospital, can have an effect. .

Whenever a patient feels like their safety--while in the care of a hospital or medical facility-- was compromised, we encourage them to contact us as soon as possible in order to prevent these mistakes from happening again.

Read the remainder of this story on Forbes website.