Various myths about medical malpractice exist, but despite the pervasiveness of erroneous myths, medical negligence is a serious problem. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are committed to protecting the victims of medical negligence and to obtaining maximum money damages for their injuries. Moreover, we are dedicated to improving patient safety and educating the public about medical malpractice risks. Accordingly, this article discusses 10 facts about medical malpractice: 1. Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), just behind heart disease and cancer. In its 1999 report titled “To Err is Human,” the Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 people a year die because of mistakes in hospitals. Then, in 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said medical negligence contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year. But the latest numbers indicate between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year due to some type of preventable harm. 2. Medical malpractice involves negligence. In order to pursue a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must show the following: (1) the defendant had a duty to provide the appropriate medical care; (2) the defendant failed to provide the appropriate medical care; and (3) the defendant’s deviation from the appropriate standard of care caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries or damages. 3. Approximately 1.3 million people are injured in the United States each year from medication errors, which according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, are defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer…related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use.” The most common medication errors included improper doses of medicine, which account for 41% of fatal medication errors. Giving the wrong drug and using the wrong method of drug administration are also fairly common, with each accounting for 16% of medication errors. 4. Medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within a specific period of time. In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit without death must be filed within two years of the date of that the patient became aware of, or should have become aware of, the medical negligence. If the patient dies, however, the wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the patient’s death. 5. Misdiagnosis is the most common type of medical error, with an estimated 10 to 20 percent of medical malpractice cases involving a diagnostic error. Missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis can occur in either the hospital setting or a doctor’s office. In either case, serious injuries and medical complications can result. In fact, according to a 2009 report, 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability. 6. Approximately 80 surgical “never events” – such as surgical instruments left inside the patient and the wrong surgery performed – occur every week. According to research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, surgical “never events” happen at least 4,000 times a year in the United States and more than 80,000 “never events” occurred between 1990 and 2010. Common types of surgical “never events” include: instruments unintentionally left behind in the patient, wrong procedure performed, wrong surgical site, and surgery performed on the wrong patient. Simply put, the high rate of surgical “never events” must change. Not only are the lives of thousands of patients put at risk because of these careless and preventable surgical mistakes, but oftentimes the only recourse for the victims of surgical “never events” is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit because, pursuant to a 2010 federal health care law, Medicaid no longer pays claims for certain “never events,” such operations on the wrong body part and certain surgical site infections. Data shows that the prevalence of surgical “never events” could be dramatically reduced through the implementation of various safety precautions. For instance, some hospitals have started using new technologies (such as bar codes on surgical tools) and requiring “timeouts” in the operating room to double-check the surgical plans. Moreover, doctors, nurses, and hospitals must all work together to minimize the incidence of “never events” and provide the standard of health care that patients deserve. 7. Studies show that each year $700 billion is spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Not only are unnecessary procedures costly, but they can also expose patients to additional medical risks. For instance, CT scans may increase a person’s lifetime risk of cancer and the dyes from CT scans and MRIs can cause kidney failure. It is important that patients know whether a procedure is necessary and the risks involved with the procedure before agreeing to it. In some cases, greed is the cause of unnecessary tests and procedures when unscrupulous doctors and hospitals make medical decisions for their own financial gain. For instance, last year, doctors and executives at Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital were charged with ordering unnecessary medical procedures, including unnecessary tracheotomies, and according to the Chicago Tribune, one doctor even overdosed patients with sedatives in order to necessitate tracheotomies and lengthy hospital stays. 8. Hospitals can expose patients to additional medical risks. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, every 1.7 million people catch an infection in the hospital, such as pneumonia, surgical site infections, urinary infections from catheters, and bloodstream infections from IVs. In some cases, hospital-acquired infections involve antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be deadly, especially to those with weakened immune systems. 9. Medical experts are critical to a medical malpractice lawsuit. A medical expert plays a critical role in a medical malpractice lawsuit by addressing two key questions – namely whether the defendant met the standard of care and, if not, whether the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A medical expert will testify about the treatment that a competent doctor would have provided in a similar situation and give his or her opinion about whether the defendant met that standard of care or not. Since there are no absolute rules about the standard of care in a given situation, medical experts often rely on medical publications, medical board guidelines, and previous experience when providing their opinions. A medical expert will also testify about whether the health care provider’s failure to meet the appropriate standard of care resulted in injuries to the patient. Since a patient’s injuries can be caused by medical negligence, as well as factors that are out of the health care provider’s control, the medical expert will explain how likely it is that the defendant’s actions or inactions were the cause of the patient’s injuries. 10. The vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits have merit. It is a myth that most medical malpractice claims are frivolous.In fact, research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at over 1,400 closed medical negligence claims and found that 97 percent were meritorious. Of those 1,400 claims, 80 percent involved death or serious injury.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
There are several things that patients can due in order to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of medical negligence. Getting a second opinion, reviewing your medical records, and asking questions have all been known to improve medical care and help minimize the impact of medical errors. If you suspect that you may have been the victim of medical negligence, it is important to consult with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the events that led to your injuries, can help you understand your legal rights and options, and will fight to get you maximum money damages from all negligent parties. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are committed to protecting the public from medical errors and helping the victims of medical malpractice obtain full and fair financial recovery for their injuries. If you suspect that you might have been the victim of medical negligence, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible medical malpractice claim. Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.