Med: Interesting Perspective on Malpractice

January 13, 2008

Before I get into the main part of this post, I want to share an interesting insight I had about 10 minutes ago:

Just one semester into the rest of my life (Read: Medicine), I have already begun to take on the characteristics of my future role. I was browsing on and came across a headline entitled, “Should I Sue My Doctor?” Immediately a feeling of disgust came over me, and I became pretty pissed off about another alarmist article that would seemingly encourage litigation against medical professionals. As explained below, these sentiments were a bit premature, but I still found it interesting than even the good liberal college kid Kurz reacts so strongly to seeing anything about malpractice litigation.

That being said, the article was actually quite interesting–it was a very unique situation. For starters, the patient trying to decide whether or not to pursue a lawsuit is a practicing physician. Secondly, the doctor in question immediately disclosed the problem and have worked with her to right things. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you would know that a similar program exists here at UIC, and has prevented a lot of lawsuits. Quick summary: Problems are immediately disclosed, patients are financially compensated, and the doctors work with the patients and hospital admins to outline how the problem is going to be fixed.

While performing a hysterectomy, the doctor accidentally nicked the ureter with a cauterizing tool. When she presented with problems a week later, he hypothesized that this is what occurred and they went on from there. She’s had three surgeries since then to fix the problem, and is not done yet.

But here’s the problem–the hospital didn’t actually offer any compensation. And she’s had to miss a whole lot of work. Her family has pushed her to pursue litigation, but being a medical professional herself, she wanted to keep the figure realistic to her damages: $50,000. Sounds good. Except for one major thing.

Because of the relatively small amount she is seeking, no lawyer is really interested in the case. Plus, they say that it’s actually a hard case to litigate: “Plus, he said, it would be a very difficult case to win, because it would be tough to show the injury was the result of the doctor’s negligence.” Given that this was a laproscopic surgery, this error was not exactly some grand fuck-up. And people (and consequently, juries) are starting to understand the whole “doctors are not perfect” concept.

She’ll probably end up settling with the hospital, as both sides of this case seem to be acting rationally. But it provides an interesting look at our current system: Crazy people seek crazy money and win it, while this woman seeking a reasonable compensation is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It’s obvious why lawyers would say that this “admit and compensate” system won’t work–they won’t get paid! Maybe then they’ll be forced to take on cases over $50k. 🙂

Clegal–I don’t think malpractice litigation should be a future goal. Just a lil FYI.


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