With the constant drone of physicians who mournfully cry that ungrateful patients are filing “frivolous” medical malpractice claims against them which force them to practice costly defensive medicine (which some would argue to be pro-active, patient-oriented medicine), force them to pay too much for medical malpractice insurance (which would be reduced if state medical boards and other supervising medical authorities would competently do their jobs by weeding out incompetent medical providers who harm patients), and force them to abandon their medical practices (have any of your doctors given up their lucrative medical careers to become plumbers or retail shop owners?), you would think that poor, powerless physicians are at a disadvantage when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits.
Well, think again … medical providers have major advantages over you:
1. Perhaps the biggest advantage that physicians and other medical providers have over their patients is that they create their patients’ medical records and their patients have no say in what appears in their records. If the patient is not awake during surgery, the surgeon can state just about anything he/she desires in the surgery records – do you think that most surgeons will document that he/she negligently cut the wrong vessel or injured a vital organ? If a physician negligently fails to tell the patient something important about the patient’s medical care, such as the known risks of certain medical treatments or alternative medical treatments available to the patient, what prevents the physician from documenting in the patient’s medical record that such a conversation took place?
2. People (including jurors) often equate medical records to passages from the Bible (or other religious text): if it’s in there, it’s true (and if it’s not in there, it’s not true). Negligent medical providers often point to their medical records in which they state that certain medical care was provided even when it was not provided. This is often the case for bedridden nursing home residents who develop pressure ulcers because they were not repositioned as often as required – nonetheless, the medical records will state that the resident was “turned and repositioned” every two hours, as ordered by the resident’s physician, when in fact the failure to reposition the resident for long periods of time (sometimes for days) was the cause of the development of painful (and sometimes fatal) but avoidable pressure ulcers.
3. So-called medical malpractice tort reforms in many states are intentionally one-sided – intended solely to protect the financial interests of negligent medical providers at the expense of innocent victims of medical malpractice. One of the more egregious and common medical malpractice reforms are caps (limits) on the amount of noneconomic damages that severely and permanently injured victims of medical malpractice may recover, thereby leaving those harmed the most by the medical negligence of others with inadequate compensation for their tremendous losses (for example, previously active people now confined to wheelchairs or to bed for the rest of their lives due to medical mistakes, or babies living with severely diminished physical and mental capacities caused by avoidable medical errors during delivery). Yet the person who was the sole cause of such catastrophic harms can continue enjoying his/her life as if nothing bad had happened, with little, if any, money out of his/her own pocket to alleviate the suffering of their unwitting victims.
4. The defense costs, settlement amounts, and judgment payments for medical malpractice lawsuits are paid by the insurance companies for the negligent medical providers yet the innocent victims of medical malpractice must pay a significant portion of their recovery towards their litigation expenses and lawyers’ fees. The medical malpractice compensation system is set up so that bad doctors pay very little out of their own pockets but their malpractice victims receive less in their pockets than their actual damages.
5. Health care providers and their hired lobbyists are well-organized and laser-focused with a common interest in convincing state legislatures and ordinary citizens that medical malpractice victims are greedy and need not be fully compensated for their losses. They use the word “frivolous” whenever they refer to medical malpractice claims, without an objective and honest consideration or discussion of the facts of such claims. Yet no one seems to challenge the vile description, which becomes embedded in the minds of people. It is astonishing how many people are disinterested in the dwindling rights of medical malpractice victims (ordinary people, like themselves) until the devastation of medical negligence visits them, their families, or their loved ones.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries or other harms as a result of the careless mistake or error of a medical provider in the United States, you should promptly seek the advice of a medical malpractice attorney in your state to learn about your rights and responsibilities and to learn about the medical malpractice laws of your state.
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