I get calls and emails almost every week from medical malpractice victims, yes, truly malpracticed patients, yet I turn most of them down. Why? It kills me to explain this to them, but the truth is that often the harm they suffered is not worth the cost of bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New York.
Yes, medical malpractice lawsuits, at least in New York, are extremely expensive because getting a doctor to testify against another doctor (and you need that to win) is so costly.
Even though we turn away four out of five medical malpractice cases, because the harm is not large enough, the malpractice suits we do bring help make medicine safer by providing error-prone doctors and others with a wake-up call, a “sting”, when their sloppy practice causes major harm. But I often worry about the many, many mistakes that, through good fortune, cause only minor harm, and thus provide no “sting”. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and other medical providers can easily “blow off” these errors. There should be some “sting” in the smaller injury cases, too.
But maybe I can worry less about that soon. I just read a New York Times article titled, “New System for Patients to Report Medical Mistakes“. It says the Obama administration wants patients to start reporting medical mistakes and unsafe medical practices by medical professionals, including hospitals, doctors and pharmacists. This would include even errors that do not cause harm, or much harm. The government is setting up a new consumer reporting system for this purpose.
In the article, Obama administration spokespeople are quoted saying that medical mistakes often go unreported, and that patients are often in the best position to expose and explain the errors, such as drug mix-ups, wrong-sided surgery, overdoses, etc. With this new reporting system, patients and their families would report medical errors and “close calls” through a website. The federal agency in charge would, when required, follow up with telephone interviews.
Should certain medical professionals turn out to be repeat problems, the government has many weapons (sting!) at its disposal, including linking Medicaid and Medicare payments to the quality of care provided and withholding payment for certain errors.
This is a good idea whose time has come.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central and Syracuse NY Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.