Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Make Our Communities Safer?

Medical Malpractice

A single mistake by a doctor or medical professional can turn a hopeful patient into a victim suffering from physical, psychological, and financial damages. If you were injured by someone’s medical malpractice, you need to understand that holding negligent doctors and hospitals accountable is crucial, not only for your own well-being, but that of the community as well.

Medical Accountability Improves Healthcare

Medical accountability can be a very powerful tool for reform, raising awareness of patient safety issues, holding negligent providers responsible for the harm they cause to patients, and prompting them to reevaluate and improve their programs and procedures. History shows that malpractice claims and public outcry can lead to safer and more effective medical care in our communities.

A classic example of the power of medical accountability is the Tuskegee study. Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. government and researchers studied poor, black sharecroppers with syphilis. Rather than tell the men that they had a treatable disease, the researchers tracked the disease’s natural progression—which can involve blindness, dementia, organ failure, and skin lesions.

When the study’s methods became public in 1972, the outcry was intense. Victims and their loved ones filed a class action lawsuit against the government and eventually received a $10 million settlement and a formal apology from President Bill Clinton.

More importantly, the medical research community responded strongly after the Tuskegee study. Today, there are clear ethical guidelines and laws that prohibit the kind of suffering that the victims of the Tuskegee study endured.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Do I Sue a Doctor for Medical Malpractice?

Similarly, the American Society of Anesthesiologists reformed their practices after an unprecedented number of malpractice claims against anesthesia providers in the 1970s and 1980s. Rather than blame trial lawyers, the society critically assessed its standards, recognized that their practices were unsafe, and made sweeping changes. These reforms included additional monitoring, improved training programs, and restrictions on work hours for doctors and nurse anesthetists. Within a decade, patient safety improved and anesthesia fatalities dropped from 1 in 6,000 to only 1 in 200,000.

Don’t Fall for These Medical Malpractice Myths

Medical malpractice lawsuits can have a considerable, beneficial effect on improving healthcare. However, many insurance companies would have you believe otherwise.

Medical malpractice insurance companies have always tried to sway public opinion against malpractice cases, insisting that medical negligence claims harm our communities by raising healthcare costs, limiting doctors’ ability to care for patients, and even forcing doctors out of business. They demonize trial lawyers and use fear to lobby for “tort reform” that limits medical malpractice victims’ damages and complicates their claims.

However, research suggests these are myths told by companies who are focused solely on their bottom line.

RELATED ARTICLE: Medical Malpractice Damage Caps and the Dangers of Tort Reform

Myth: Malpractice Claims Increase Healthcare Costs

Insurance companies argue that malpractice claims are responsible for the ever-increasing costs of healthcare in our country. Their reasoning is that negligence claims raise malpractice insurance costs, causing doctors and hospitals to charge more for their services.

According to numerous studies, there is no correlation between medical malpractice costs and the cost of healthcare. In fact, malpractice-related costs have remained relatively stable for more than a decade, and actually declined from 2017 to 2018. At the same time, healthcare expenses are still on the rise.

Myth: Malpractice Claims Limit Doctors’ Abilities

One of the most common misconceptions is that filing negligence claims against a doctor or hospital negatively affects other doctors’ abilities to practice medicine. Insurance lobbyists even claim that doctors are leaving their practices or moving to states that pass “tort reforms.” This is not true.

As mentioned above, malpractice suits can help doctors practice medicine more efficiently and safely. Medical reform resulted in improvements to anesthesiologists’ work environment and work hours, creating a healthier hospital for both the patients and the doctors. Additionally, this reform lowered the costs of malpractice insurance for anesthesiologists to among the lowest of all medical specialties, saving doctors thousands of dollars each year.

RELATED ARTICLE: Proving Medical Malpractice: Why Experts Matter for Your Lawsuit

Do Careless Doctors Lose Their Licenses After a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Filing a complaint with the state medical board is another way to keep your community safe from negligent practitioners. A successful medical board complaint can result in revocation of a doctor’s license and other disciplinary actions. An attorney can advise you through this process in addition to your medical malpractice claim, and increase your likelihood of successfully protecting your community from negligent doctors.

Phelan Petty: Fighting for Medical Malpractice Victims in Virginia

Medical malpractice often leaves victims buried by debt and questions, and it is important to understand your options for both compensation and justice. Pursuing a medical malpractice case may compensate you for your damages and make our communities safer. At Phelan Petty, our team of trial attorneys can help you navigate confusing malpractice claims and medical board complaints. To speak with a medical malpractice lawyer, call us at 804-980-7100 or complete our online form.

References

Belk, David. (2018, August). Medical Malpractice: Myths and Realities. Retrieved from http://truecostofhealthcare.org/malpractice/

Do Big Malpractice Award Really Increase Medical Costs? (2013, August). Insurance Journal. Retrieved from https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/08/25/302803.htm

Japsen, B. (2018, October 10). Why doctor malpractice premiums stopped rising. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/10/10/why-doctor-malpractice-premiums-stopped-rising/#6b67514e1517

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

About Michael Phelan

Michael Phelan has been consistently recognized for his excellence as a trial lawyer, his commitment to research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication. As one of his valued clients said, “Mike puts his heart into it."