Albany New York Medical Malpractice Settlement Is Unusual and Refreshing

surgery.jpg“Help, this woman is bleeding to death! Is there a doctor in the house?”

But no doctor intervened, and poor Diane McCabe died a slow death. In fact, it took her 15 hours to bleed to death. Why couldn’t they stop the bleeding? Was she in some remote location with no access to a hospital? Nope. In fact she bled to death in an Albany Medical Center Hospital in New York State where she had undergone a C-section. After the surgeon finished the Cesarean procedure, and stitched McCabe back up, he left to attend to other patients. A physician attending to McCabe then called him several times to report that McCabe appeared to be bleeding internally, and asked the surgeon to open her back up. Despite these calls to action, the surgeon refused to intervene until it was too late. McCabe had lost too much blood.

Diane McCabe’s family settled her Albany New York medical malpractice claim last week for $5.2M against the (ir)responsible surgeon and Albany Medical Center Hospital. Since Diane left behind two small children and a grieving husband, this does not seem like too much money. In fact, it seems a little light. But her family got something much more important than money to them, something very unusual in an upstate New York medical malpractice case (or in any malpractice case anywhere): They got the Hospital to agree to implement safety improvements to make it unlikely the same thing would happen again. And they got the Hospital to agree to fund, for the next 20 years, a Diane McCabe Memorial Quality (patient safety) Lecture series. In other words, they got what amounts to an apology, some remorse, and some assurance that the Hospital would learn from its mistake.

Many victims of New York medical malpractice or their grieving family members have told us over the years, “all I want is for them to admit they made a mistake, and to apologize”. Our answer always disappoints them: “You can’t sue for that”. It’s true. No law allows a judge to force a malpracticing doctor or hospital to apologize or to agree to change their behavior. All the law allows for is monetary compensation, i.e., money, to the victim, or in the case of a New York medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit, to the victim’s family. In this case, the Hospital agreed to do in settlement what a Court could never have forced it to do in Court.

Michaels & Smolak sends its congratulations to Diane McCabe’s brave family, to their lawyer, John Powers, and, yes, even to the Albany Medical Center Hospital for finally agreeing to do what so many malpracticing doctors and hospitals refuse to do: Accept blame.

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