Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Untangling The Medical Malpractice Web: It's Not All About Lawsuits

In a world where it is becoming easier to be cynical and negative, the continual kindness and grace of people continues to amaze me.

Recently I was consulted on, and declined, two potential malpractice claims. In both cases, the families had LEGITIMATE complaints and concerns over the care their loved ones received. In both cases I had a strong suspicion that medical negligence was a distinct possibility, and contributed to some really serious patient harm.

But sometimes it is nevertheless difficult to PROVE from the state of the medical records that malpractice occurred, for a whole host of reasons. This is a difficult concept to explain to families  who simply want to know what  happened in the operating room or the ICU. It's not something you can generally explain in a 10 minute phone call. It often takes time, and these folks deserve the time it takes to walk them through all the medical and legal issues.

A cynic might think that these folks would be angry and spiteful at hearing the news that their case has been declined. However, in most cases, it's just the opposite. Both families were extremely greatful that somebody took the time to go through the records and provide some insight, and actually explain some of the medical issues and what the current medical literature has to say about proper treatment protocols. Their grace and understanding under difficult circumstances runs counter to the stereotype of "sue happy" people just looking to "cash in" on a lawsuit.

More than anything else, families want the truth--and some piece of mind that they at least inquired about whether a preventable medical mistake occurred.

The shame of it all is that it frequently takes a lawyer to explain what the doctors should have explained to the family months before they picked up the phone and called a lawyer.

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