The Staggering Costs of Medical Malpractice

October 3rd, 2016
The Staggering Costs of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is more common than you might think and it recently ranked third biggest cause of death in the US, according to an article published earlier this year on The Guardian.

The article is based on a study published in the British Medical Journal, which revealed that only cancer and heart failure are more deadly, as medical errors account for 9.5% of all fatalities in the US.

In the UK, medical malpractice has also regularly made the headlines, with a reported £1 billion paid by the NHS in 2015 to injury lawyers and patients who suffered harm following a medical treatment or procedure.

Officials insist that skyrocketing legal bills do not reflect lower medical standards, but instead they are a consequence of an overall system that is in dire need of a complete overhaul, with measures such as capped legal costs and compensations for each medical malpractice case.

Legal terms

Legally, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional doesn’t follow the “standard care” during the treatment of a patient. The “standard care” in legal terms corresponds essentially to what other reasonable and knowledgeable medical providers would have done in similar circumstances. It might sound like a bit of a blurry definition, but in the end, it all comes down to seeing whether or not a doctor or other healthcare specialist has been negligent.

This has to be nuanced though, as bad outcomes during a medical procedure aren’t always due to negligence.

In the UK, the Citizen Advice bureau more specifically explains that a medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider:

  • Fails to diagnose or makes the wrong diagnosis
  • Makes a mistake during a procedure
  • Gives the wrong treatment or drug
  • Doesn’t warn about the risks of a treatment or procedure
  • Doesn’t get the patient’s consent before going ahead with a procedure

High costs but low success rates

Despite medical malpractice ranking as one of the main causes of death in the USA, personal injury lawsuits are substantially lower than one might believe at first. Medical malpractice is in fact involved in only 15% of the overall personal-injury lawsuits, and more than 80% of these lawsuits are not successful, with the injured patients not receiving any compensation whatsoever. This is why contacting a specialised injury lawyer is crucial in order to get a better chance at winning the case.

Worst case scenarios

In most cases, medical malpractice is simply due to human error, but there are times when medical negligence can slip into the realm of the absurd.

Among the most famous US cases, in 2004 Nancy Andrews became pregnant via in vitro fertilization with the wrong sperm. It became obvious after the birth of a dark-skinned baby girl that there had been a mistake. The couple then filed a malpractice claim against the clinic.

Another famous medical lawsuit involved Mr. Universe Alexander Baez, who was given cup C breasts implants instead of the pec implants.

Surgical items being negligently left in the body is unfortunately a classic medical malpractice case, like in 2008, when a patient named Daryoush Mazarei complained about intense pains in the chest after an operation. After numerous complains, he was finally given a scan, only to discover a pair of 10 inch long retractors had been left in his chest cavity.

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