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New Jersey Medical Malpractice and Product Liability Law Blog

Medical malpractice liability has little to do with medical costs

One of the arguments that is made against medical malpractice lawsuits -- and it is a similar argument that is made to explain why costs relating to medical care are so high -- is that doctors and medical institutions have to order "defensive" tests and medical procedures to protect themselves from liability.

In other words, they have no choice but to double- and triple-check things and to hold patients in the hospital for longer to make sure they didn't make a mistake in treating the patient. That way, the patient has little-to-no legal recourse against the doctor or medical institution when their care is complete. This argument gets trotted around like it is fact -- and thankfully, there is new evidence that contradicts this line of thinking.

Medication errors are serious and life-threatening

Imagine that after a visit to the doctor's office you are given a prescription by your doctor to deal with a relatively minor -- but still serious -- medical issue. With the right medicine, the proper dosage and your persistence in taking the medicine at the right time, your condition should significantly improve, or be cured all together, in a short time. So you go to the pharmacy to get your prescription and then in the next week, you stay on top of your medication schedule.

After seven days though, you don't feel any better. In fact, the medication doesn't make you feel well at all. So you go back to your doctor and show him or her your medication bottle. Your doctor looks horrified. "It's the wrong medication" your doctor informs you, as your head slumps into your hands.

Intoxication screenings, payout caps important to medical field

While the following story doesn't have anything to do with New Jersey law, it does bring up two important factors in medical malpractice and medical safety that could be applicable anywhere. So forgive the geographical irrelevance in this story, and instead focus on these two elements: intoxicated doctors and medical malpractice lawsuit caps.

The state of California has a motion on the docket this November that would add new rules that would require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol testing. Another rule would significantly elevate the cap on medical malpractice payouts, pushing it from $250,000 to more than four times that amount ($1.1 million).

How do you prove that medical malpractice occurred?

The question posed in the title of this blog post may seem like a simple one: a patient went in for medical care, a doctor made a mistake and, as a result, the patient suffered more harm and incurred more medical bills. Simple, right? This would obviously seem like an incident where medical malpractice occurred.

Though that certainly sounds like a case of medical malpractice -- and it certainly could be proven so -- this area of law isn't as straightforward as you may think. There are numerous ways to prove that a doctor or institution owes a patient after medical malpractice occurred, but establishing that proof is a bit more complex than it may initially seem. So how do you prove that a patient did indeed suffer from medical malpractice?

You can hold medical pros or institutions responsible for mistakes

When you go to the doctor's office or the hospital, you expect everything to be in near-perfect shape. There should be clean surfaces and fresh sheets on the bed. The utensils that medical professionals use should be sanitized and good to go before any procedures. The medical record system should be up to date and fully functional. These are just a few of the basic things that should be happening at every hospital across the country, let alone just in New Jersey.

However, this sadly doesn't always happen. Every once and awhile, you'll read a seemingly-unreal story about a patient who suffered a terrible medical setback due to unclean bed sheets or his or her hospital bed; or utensils that weren't sanitized, thus spreading a disease or infection on to a what would have been a healthy patient; or medical records systems crashing or not being properly updated by medical personnel.

'Retained surgical items' happen way too often

It may seem impossible or like it is something out of a bad movie, but unfortunately surgical errors that involve a medical tool, device or object being left in the patient happen far too often. These events, which are called "retained surgical items," can cause a patient to suffer tremendous pain and suffering, and the harm caused by a retained surgical item could be permanent.

Obviously, retained surgical items also require more surgery and medical care, which prolongs the patient's recovery and deals them extra medical bills that they shouldn't have to deal with. In the absolute worst case scenarios, a retained surgical item can cause fatal complications. These surgical errors are very serious despite their ridiculous nature, and the people (or their family members) who deal with this medical malpractice deserve justice.

Almost 80 percent of kids not screened for developmental disorder

Let's say that the medical industry receives or makes a very serious recommendation that involves the health of patients. You would expect the industry to respond to this recommendation with vigor, right? You would think that the doctors, nurses, surgeons and everyone else involved in the medical field would do everything in their power to ensure that the recommendation is fulfilled.

It appears that when it comes to kids and screening them for potential developmental disorders, recommendations don't mean much. It was recommended that doctors screen young children once a year for potential developmental disorders. In a perfect world, these screenings would happen -- but in our world, few children actually receive the screenings. Worse still, the whole matter of kids and developmental disorders seems to be dismissed.

'Toxic culture of perfection' and how it impacts medical industry

We have talked about medical errors and their fatal consequences on this blog before. In addition, there have been reports recently that suggest the medical industry isn't exactly undergoing a seamless transition to new error reporting methods. Given these two factors, and some recent comments by a physician at the Bellevue Hospital Center at New York University, we're going to touch on the the medical error issue again today.

The physician made an interesting comment about the "toxic culture of perfection" in the medical industry. It may seem on the surface that a "culture of perfection" would be a good thing. However, it becomes "toxic" with the medical industry in the sense that the pressure to be perfect leads to doctors, nurses, surgeons and all medical staff members alike to conceal or hide (or at least have the urge to conceal or hide) their mistakes.

New 'level' system identifies surgical centers for kids

More than a month a month, we wrote a post about how there are very few people who are confident they can grade a doctor's skill or quality of care. It really is a tough job to find out which doctor is a good one. It requires a lot of research and investigation, and sometimes a reference from a friend or family member is the best way to find your doctor.

But this raises an especially important question regarding health care: if it's difficult for us to judge the quality of care of doctors, then how confident are we supposed to feel when we send our children into surgery?

Who can you sue when you file a medical malpractice claim?

Imagine that one day while you are receiving medical care at a hospital, some sort of error or complication occurs and you are dealt a significantly worse medical outlook as a result. Which party do you sue, the doctor or the hospital? What other parties or entities could be caught up in the lawsuit?

When a patient affected by a medical error, hospital negligence or a pharmaceutical error considers legal action, that patient will ultimately file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This lawsuit could amass some crucial compensation for the victimized patient, who will have to deal with wrongfully incurred medical bills as well as immense pain and suffering.

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