Transparency is somewhat of a buzzword right now in the health care industry when it comes to addressing the issue of medical errors. There is good reason for this. Not only can effective communication with patients about medical errors allow patients and their families to have a better experience of care, it can also potentially reduce the costs associated with medical care by reducing the incidence of medical malpractice litigation.
Shopping for health care services is not something we are accustomed to doing as consumers, at least not in the way we do it with other goods and services. There are multiple reasons for this, including the fact that data pertaining to the quality of health care providers and facilities is not as readily available for consumers as similar data is for other consumer goods and services. Some organizations, such as The Leapfrog Group, are working to change that, particularly through its annual hospital safety survey.
In our last post, we began speaking about the various potential causes of cerebral palsy, and particularly situations where progressive jaundice can result in cerebral palsy. Typically, of course, jaundice is manageable enough that high bilirubin can be brought back down in a reasonable period of time. In some cases, though, failure to adequately monitor jaundice can have bad results for an infant.
In our last post, we began speaking about medical guidelines and their potential usefulness for holding negligent physicians accountable for harm to their patients. As we noted, medical guidelines can serve as standards of care, but medical guidelines are not all the same.
Medical science, as readers know, is not a perfected body of knowledge that cannot be improved upon. Rather, our knowledge of human biology and how to treat patients is continuing to improve. This is obviously a good thing for patients as the way health care professionals approach medical care is continually improving.
According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, most Americans receive a wrong diagnosis at some point in their lives. Not every case of wrong diagnosis has serious consequences, of course, but in some cases diagnostic errors can have a significant impact. This is especially the case when diagnostic errors occur in connection with cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.
In our last post, we began speaking about protections at both the state and federal level which shield volunteer physicians from liability in the event of a mistake that injures a patient. We’ve already mentioned the Federal Volunteer Protection Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, and Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law.
A recent article in the online journal, Medical Economics, focused on an issue that doesn’t come up too often in discussions of medical malpractice. That issue is the liability of physicians for errors in the course of volunteer work. What kind of liability do physicians open themselves up to when they engage in volunteer work, and what options for recovery are available to patients who are harmed by a negligent volunteer physicians?
Last time, we began speaking about the Federal Tort Claims Act and the general elements that must be proven in order to successfully pursue such a claim. One important point that needs to be mentioned about the FTCA is that before a claimant actually pursues litigation under the FTCA, he or she must first file a claim with the federal agency believed to be responsible for the injuries and wait for the agency to deny the claim, take no action, or offer an unsatisfactory settlement.
As we mentioned in our last post, VA patients do not have the same ability to pursue damages for medical errors as civilian patients. This does not mean it is impossible, only that the means of obtaining compensation is slightly different and a bit more circumscribed.