Facts About Medical Malpractice

Is medical malpractice a real problem?

Yes. The most recent study addressing preventable harm caused by medical negligence reveals that more than 400,000 people a year are harmed and 210,000 people a year are killed by malpractice.  Journal of Patient Safety, Vol. 9 No. 3, P. 122-128, September 2013.  This study shows how the prior studies (discussed below) underestimated the extent of preventable injuries and deaths.

This fact has been repeatedly confirmed.  After a cautious and rigorous analysis of national malpractice claims, Johns Hopkins patient safety researchers estimate that a surgeon in the United States leaves a foreign object such as a sponge or a towel inside a patient’s body after an operation 39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operates on the wrong body site 20 times a week.  The study concluded that “Never Events” [events that should not happen] occur at least 4,000 times per year.

The researchers, reporting online in the journal Surgery, say they estimate that 80,000 of these so-called “never events” occurred in American hospitals between 1990 and 2010 – and believe their estimates are likely on the low side.

The findings – the first of their kind, it is believed – quantify the national rate of “never events,” occurrences for which there is universal professional agreement that they should never happen during surgery. Documenting the magnitude of the problem, the researchers say, is an important step in developing better systems to ensure never events live up to their name.

One in three Americans say that they or a family member has had a medical mistake, and one in five say that that medical malpractice caused a serious health problem or death.  According to numerous studies, only a fraction of the people harmed by medical malpractice actually sue for compensation, and there is actually under-compensation.

Older Studies

Are medical errors and mistakes a new problem?

No. Years ago the Congressional Budget Office found that there were 181,000 severe injuries caused by medical negligence a year, and the Institute of Medicine found that 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical malpractice.  HealthGrades found that Medicare patients that experienced a patient-safety incident had a one-in-five chance of dying as a result.  Researchers at the Harvard School of Medicine found that 18 % of patients in hospitals are injured during the course of their care.  The Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services found that one-in-seven Medicare patients are injured during hospital stays and that adverse events during the course of care contribute to 180,000 patients dying every year.

Is Medical Malpractice Preventable?

Yes.  In a landmark study published in the February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology,  Dr.Amos Grunebaum reported that obstetric safety initiatives initiated in 2003 at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center reduced so-called “sentinel events”—such as avoidable deaths and serious injuries—to zero. Instituting a comprehensive obstetric patient safety program decreased compensation payments and sentinel events resulting in immediate and significant savings.

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Volume 204, Issue 2 , Pages 97-105, February 2011

Is there a Crisis?

No. Misstatements and misunderstandings about medical malpractice lawsuits were systematically and thoroughly debunked by doctors in the prestigious medical journal CHEST, the Official Publication of the renowned American College of Chest Physicians, in its January 2013 issue (143(1):222-227).

In an article entitled “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice”, the authors identify and refute, using hard facts, the five main myths of medical malpractice as follows: (1) Malpractice crises are caused by spikes in medical malpractice litigation (ie, sudden rises in payouts and claim frequency), (2) the tort system delivers “jackpot justice,” (3) physicians are one malpractice verdict away from bankruptcy, (4) physicians move to states that adopt damages caps, and (5) tort reform will lower health-care spending dramatically.  The facts prove none of these myths are true, and there is NO medical malpractice crisis.

Additional Articles

  • To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, Institute of Medicine, 1999
  • Deaths/Mortality, 2005, National Center for Health Care Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control, viewed at  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm.
  • Key Issues, Congressional Budget Office, December 2008, 150-154.
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement: Campaign – FAQs, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, http://www.ihi.org/IHI/Programs/Campaign/Campaign.htm?TabId=6.
  • The Fifth Annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, HealthGrades, April 2008.
  • Christopher P. Landrigan et al., Temporal Trends in Rates of Patent Harm Resulting from Medical Care, New England Journal of Medicine, November 25, 2010.
  • Daniel R. Levinson, Adverse Events in Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries, Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, November 2010.
  • Wrong Site Surgery Project, Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.
  • Philip F. Stahel et al., Wrong-Site and Wrong-Patient Procedures in the Universal Protocol Era, Archives of Surgery, 2010;145(10):978-984.
  • National Survey on Consumers’ Experiences With Patient Safety and Quality Information, Kaiser Family Foundation, November 17, 2004.
  • Tom Baker, The Medical Malpractice Myth, 2005.
  • Those medical complications not covered were: Object Left in Surgery (Serious Preventable Event); Air Embolism (Serious Preventable Event); Blood Incompatibility (Serious Preventable Event); Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections Pressure Ulcers (Decubitus Ulcers); Vascular Catheter-Associated Infection Surgical Site Infection Hospital Acquired Injuries, including fractures, dislocations, intracranial injury, crushing injury, and burns. See 72 F.R. 47201.
  • 72 F.R. 47201.
  • Vanessa Fuhrmans, Insurers Stop Paying for Care Linked to Errors, Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008.
  • Relation Between Malpractice Claims and Adverse Events Due to Negligence, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 325 No. 4, P. 245-251.
  •  Relation Between Negligent Adverse Events and the Outcomes of Medical-Malpractice Litigation,   New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 335 No. 26, P. 1963-1967

Bronx Medical Malpractice Lawyers

When you or a loved one is harmed in by medical negligence, you need a skilled and experienced Bronx Medical Malpractice attorney that knows and understands the law and how to prove your case.  The lawyers at Sonin & Genis have the resources to prove your case and obtain full and just compensation for all of the harms and losses sustained: the pain and suffering – the loss of self-respect, dignity, independence, and the humiliation and embarrassment that accompanies injury, as well as the loss income and bills to pay for all care that should be given. Contact our office at (718) 561-4444.

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