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.
Veterans' Administration hospitals, as readers may have heard, do not have the greatest track record in terms of preventing medical errors. To be sure, medical errors can and do occur from time to time at every hospital, even in the absence of negligence. However, hospitals should continually be working on reducing preventable errors, since these can have a significant impact on the quality of care for patients and shouldn't be occurring in the first place.
In our last post, we mentioned a recent study which highlighted the benefit of returning to the facility that performed a surgical operation when post-op complications arise. As we mentioned, it is important for any patient who experiences serious complications after an operation to consider whether the providers who performed the operation did so in accordance with accepted standards of care.
In our last post, we began speaking about the risks associated with the Fentanyl spray Subsys and the fact that it is often prescribed for off-label uses, some of which are actually contraindicated by the manufacturer. Because of the toxicity of the drug, as well as the risk of addiction and overdose, there is a very tight system of control around the drug.
Physicians have a big responsibility when it comes to the promotion and prescription of medications for the benefit of their patients. Because of the way medical care is delivered, patients rely on their doctors to recommend the most beneficial course of treatment, without reference to personal gain. Unfortunately, the system doesn't always work that way.
A federal database designed to help Americans better track the performance of physicians contains so many accuracies that it cannot be considered reliable. The database, which is run by the federal Centers for Medicine for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is supposed to track physician performance by a 10-digit number assigned by the government, but in many cases, those numbers are wrong, making it impossible for patients to research a physician’s performance history.