Older Patients More Likely to Die with Unfit Doctors
Malpractice Treating the Elderly, Emergency Hospitalizations, & Death
We may assume that elderly patients should receive more attention and dedicated care from their doctors, but this is often far from the truth. While older adults are particularly vulnerable to illnesses and diseases, often requiring ongoing management of medical conditions with medication and monitoring, too many physicians simply fail to provide this high-risk population with adequate care. In fact, older patients treated by doctors who were ultimately removed from the Medicare program for fraud and abuse, had an increased risk of death and emergency hospitalizations, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins. This disturbing new insight represents yet another troublesome reality for those receiving medical care in the US: the quality of your doctor can have an immense impact on the quality of your health. In the worst cases, negligent doctors can cause serious harm to older patients, who rely on them more than ever. When these tragedies occur, the victim’s loved ones may choose to pursue justice through a lawsuit.
If your elderly loved one suffered complications or died due to poor medical treatment in New Jersey, contact Fronzuto Law Group to learn more about your legal options. You can reach us by filling out this form or calling 973-435-4551 for a free consultation.
How Does Medical Malpractice Affect Older Adults?
Medical mistakes and malpractice can have devastating effects on older patients, who often suffer infections, worsening conditions, and other irreversible results. Many studies have confirmed this, including one recently conducted at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers investigated health outcomes among elderly patients on Medicare who were treated by later-excluded physicians. The doctors included in the analysis, banned from the program by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2012 and 2018, had been treating patients before being cited for abuse or fraud. Tragically, it was the patients who paid the ultimate price for their misconduct.
The study’s fundamental inquiry centered on whether healthcare providers who committed fraud, caused patient harm, or had a revoked license, were associated with more adverse health events among patients in the Medicare program. Specifically, researchers examined rates of mortality and hospitalization for older patients who were treated by these doctors. According to the study’s findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, patients treated by banned physicians had approximately 13% to 23% higher rates of death. These patients also had a higher likelihood of emergency hospitalization, ranging from 11% to 30%. And the actual extent of risk for adverse health outcomes may be much worse, as the study only included fee-for-service patients, not the uninsured, those with commercial insurance, or patients with government-funded programs.
Additional billing was the primary motivation for acts of misconduct among substandard doctors, according to Lauren Hersch Nicholas, PhD, MPP, the head author of the study. Elderly patients were subjected to these and other common forms of medical malpractice by their doctors:
- Prescribing and treating patients with dangerous drugs
- Performing unnecessary or unadvised surgery (not in the patient’s best interests)
- Using faulty chemotherapy
Why Elderly Patients are Often Blamed for Medical Mistakes
As we age, we become more susceptible to many illnesses and chronic conditions. Sometimes, the aging process naturally leads to conditions like arthritis. In other cases, older adults develop high blood pressure or heart disease, both of which may require prescription medicine and other treatment. Moreover, elderly patients are more susceptible to infections and developing other illnesses while in the hospital for entirely unrelated conditions. Doctors and hospitals are aware of this and often attempt to justify their own negligence by blaming patients for bad outcomes. Some of the common arguments that healthcare providers use in an attempt to avoid compensating older patients in medical malpractice suits include:
- The patient had a weak immune system already
- The patient had a preexisting condition
- The patient needs further treatment and simply won’t or can’t afford to pay
- The patient’s mental state is deteriorating, they can’t provide or understand all of the information related to their care
Regardless of these and other arguments, older patients have the right to appropriate medical treatment. When elderly adults become victims of medical malpractice, these individuals and their families equally have the right to hold negligent providers accountable.
Getting Counsel on Elder Malpractice in NJ
At Fronzuto Law Group, we are committed to fighting for all victims of medical errors and inadequate care in the New Jersey area. If your elderly parent or loved one suffered harm because of a doctor’s mistakes, misdiagnosis, or wrong decisions, ensure that you are aware of your rights. Contact Fronzuto Law Group by calling 973-435-4551 or fill out our convenient contact form for a free consultation. When you need answers, our knowledgeable attorneys are here to help.