Medical Malpractice: An Ongoing Crisis

Medical malpractice lawsuits have been a point of contention between the medical profession and the patients they serve for decades. Doctors and hospitals want to put limits on a patient’s ability to sue for medical malpractice because they claim that it damages the healthcare industry.

In order to avoid getting sued, doctors tend to overcompensate to try to protect themselves from liability. They run tests that they deem to be unnecessary, simply to say that they covered all of their bases.

The hospitals claim that the combination of costs between these tests and the high premiums for insurance due to all of the lawsuits leave little funding for equipment upgrades and patient care.

On the other side of the coin, you have patients who have suffered greatly from negligence that is sometimes as egregious as amputating the wrong limb. Newborns suffer from a doctor’s failure to identify and manage a mother’s medical conditions that can affect the safety of the baby, which is a solid base for a birth injury claim.

What Are the Causes of Medical Malpractice?

There are many causes for medical malpractice, including:

  • Productivity-based compensation
  • Overwork
  • Clerical errors

Productivity-Based Compensation

Many hospitals offer more money for more patients treated. This type of compensation typically does not come with any stipulations as to the quality of care of the patient. Productivity-based compensation leads to doctors spending less time with their patients and missing things that sometimes turn into critical problems.

Overwork

Productivity-based compensation is also one of the lead factors that play into overwork. Doctors in hospitals tend to work a lot no matter what, but these bonuses certainly amplify the problem. In almost any profession, the lead cause of mistakes is a lack of proper rest. Working long hours always leads to sloppier performance.

Clerical Errors

Many cases of malpractice come down to communication. Something is mislabeled or misplaced, and a butterfly flaps its wings. Disaster strikes. But it could have so easily been avoided if doctors, nurses, and technicians all slowed down a little and double or triple checked that everything was in order. People get upset enough when their order is wrong at the drive-thru. Of course, there will be lawsuits when things go wrong at a hospital.

How Doctors Can Avoid Medical Malpractice Suits

One way that doctors can avoid malpractice suits is to avoid mistakes. Eliminating productivity-based compensation, overwork, and clerical errors can all help greatly with that. However, there will still be times where a doctor does everything right and gets sued anyway. Some procedures are just very difficult and aren’t going to go right all of the time. How can a doctor avoid getting sued in those instances?

The simple answer is that the problems caused by accidents or failed surgeries are not the main cause of the lawsuits. The lawsuits are about something else. They are about the care that the doctor shows for their patients. Or lack thereof. When a doctor just breezes in and out of the room, and then something goes wrong with a patient’s care, they are likely to hold the doctor responsible.

The doctor may or may not be at fault in these cases, but patients tend to believe they are. On the other hand, doctors who take time with their patients to walk through all of the steps they will be performing rarely get sued. It all comes down to perception. 

If patients feel like their doctor is too rushed to have a proper talk with them about their situation, they are likely to think that their doctor didn’t have time to properly care for them either. It doesn’t really matter if the doctor did a good job or not. The patient will view them poorly and will be more likely to sue.

Doctors with good bedside manner, who take the time to speak with their patients and make sure they are aware of everything with their condition and walk them through all of the steps they will take to treat them, are far less likely to be blamed for a bad end result.

Perception is key. When people perceive you as a bad guy, they are likely to come after you. When they perceive you as a good guy, they are likely to support you. Simply put, people tend not to sue their friends.

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