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Blaming The Medical Malpractice Victim, Part 1

In the last few weeks, a number of publications have focused stories on the unpleasant experience of a medical malpractice lawsuit from the perspective of the physician. These articles sprang out of a recent study that looked at how much of a physician's career is spent "fighting" medical malpractice claims.

This study concluded that the average doctor spends about 10 percent of his or her career dealing with the fallout of medical malpractice allegations - approximately four years. One physician followed up on this study with a healthcare opinion piece about the stress that these lawsuits put on doctors, writing: "for more than 150 years, the medical malpractice system has loomed over health care, and doctors..."

All of this fuss seems a little unfair. While litigation may certainly be unpleasant for doctors, these observers should stop to consider the other side of the coin: each doctor who spends four years waiting for his or her insurer's lawyers to resolve a medical malpractice claim may have caused a life-altering injury.

It hardly seems appropriate for the healthcare industry to bemoan the hassle of litigation when preventable medical errors kill an estimated 98,000 Americans every year. On top of this number, countless more patients and families face pain and suffering from unnecessary and mistaken treatments to correct less severe medical mistakes.

Fortunately, a leading medical journal published a serious article that looks at malpractice from a different perspective. This article offers a more factual look at the ongoing debate between healthcare providers and malpractice victims by debunking five big myths about medical error lawsuits. Check back early next week for more discussion of this debate.

Sources: CHEST Journal, "Five Myths of Medical Malpractice," David A. Hyman and Charles Silver, Jan. 2013; The New York Times, "The Drawn Out Process of the Medical Lawsuit," Pauline W. Chen, Jan. 24, 2013

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