In 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report estimating that 98,000 hospital deaths occur annually due to medical errors. In 2004, HealthGrades, an independent healthcare quality company, updated that information and issued a report on Patient Safety in American Hospitals. After reviewing 37,000,000 in-patient hospital records, researchers concluded that, on average, 195,000 people died in American hospitals due to medical negligence each year, from 2000 to 2002.
HealthGrades' Vice President of Medical Affairs, Dr. Samantha Collier, concluded that "The equivalent of 390 jumbo jets full of people are dying each year due to likely preventative, in-hospital medical errors, making this one of the leading killers in the U.S." One in every four Medicare patients hospitalized from 2000 to 2002 who experienced a "patient safety incident," died. Approximately 60% of these deaths were caused by failure to rescue, decubitus ulcers and post-operative sepsis. "If the Center for Disease Control's annual list of leading causes of death included medical errors, it would show up number six ahead of diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer's Disease and renal disease."
The HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study reviewed nearly 5,000 hospitals from 2003 to 2005 and found that medical errors have continued to rise. In that 3-year period, patient safety incidents in U.S. hospitals went up by three percent overall, while the error gap between the best and worst performing hospitals remained wide. During that time period, the study also found that there were 247,662 potentially preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals. HealthDay News, Forbes 04/04/2007.
When the numbers are calculated to include general medical practitioners working outside a hospital setting, 47% of family physicians recalled a case where a patient died due to a physician's error.
The National Practitioner Data Bank reports that 5.1% of doctors account for 54.2% of all paid malpractice claims. Even more disturbing is the fact that only 7.6% of physicians who have paid out two malpractice claims and 13% of doctors with as many as five malpractice pay-outs have ever been disciplined in any way, despite high rates of substance abuse and working while sleep deprived! Despite these figures, fewer malpractice claims are being filed, and only a small percentage of doctors are held responsible for their professional negligence.
In 2005, the Missouri Department of Insurance released a report on the frequency and cost of malpractice claims, as well as who wins them, for the period 2002 to 2004. Would you be surprised to learn that of all malpractice claims filed in Missouri in 2004, that the victims of medical malpractice only received settlements 28.3% of the time, and only 22% collected anything after going to trial? The average payment in a malpractice case is only $252,000.00.
In May 2007, Missouri's former Commissioner of Insurance, Jay Angoff, released a new study based upon annual reports filed by the largest 15 medical malpractice insurers from 2003 through 2006. Funded by the American Association for Justice, the study reported the following "startling" facts:
- The medical malpractice insurers' losses fell by 48% from 2003-2006.
- These losses have declined every year for the past five years.
- These insurers' surplus funds in 2006 were 43% greater than in 2003 - - - five times the state-minimum surplus for insurance company stability.
- Despite these record gains, only three of the top 15 insurers returned any dividends to doctors in 2006!
- The AAJ has accordingly called for an immediate review of the insurance industry's unscrupulous price-gouging and its effect upon access to safe, affordable, health care.
This epidemic of medical negligence costs the United States between $17 - $29 billion each year, in terms of disability and health care costs, lost income, household productivity and the personal costs of care. In contrast to this, the medical liability system only costs approximately $6.7 billion annually. Malpractice insurance premiums only cost 3.2% of the average doctor's annual income.
Despite these published statistics, paid lobbyists for the medical profession, pharmaceutical industry and insurance industry spend tens of millions of dollars on television, radio and newspaper advertising to deceive the public into thinking that frivolous lawsuits and greedy lawyers are to blame for high malpractice insurance premiums and the lack of available doctors to deliver babies and perform surgery.
Clearly, if there is a medical malpractice "crisis," it is one of the healthcare providers' own making. If the medical profession got rid of its "bad apples," more than half of the lawsuits would disappear overnight. As it stands today, the victims of medical malpractice face a very expensive uphill battle when they file a lawsuit seeking damages for medical negligence.
Healthcare professionals are only required to provide professional services that meet an ordinary or normal standard of care. When a physician is found to have been negligent, it means that he or she has failed to use the same degree of skill and learning, under the same or similar circumstances, that is used by other members of the medical profession. Some of the most common ways that medical malpractice is committed are failure or errors in: timely diagnosis and ordering appropriate treatment, ordering necessary tests and proper medication, consulting with specialists and surgical procedures. Although there are numerous types of malpractice claims, the most common involve:
- Wrongful death
- Birth defects or injuries
- Hospital, physician and nursing negligence
- Nursing home injuries and elder abuse
- Pharmaceutical errors
Determining whether or not you have a potential case of medical negligence or malpractice is often a difficult finding to make. The Glassman Law Firm, employs two paralegals who are registered nurses. Following our in-house case review, we consult with physicians and other health care providers on a confidential basis in order to carefully study all complex medical issues before proceeding with a malpractice suit. Some of the signs that may reflect that you have a potential malpractice case would be where the patient has a very unexpected or different result from a surgical or medical procedure than had been explained, or when death or severe injury occurs as a result of a "routine" treatment or surgery, and the doctor can give no reasonable explanation for the death or worsened condition.
If we are able to prove your medical malpractice case and the medical provider is found negligent, then you are entitled to recover damages. Damages are intended to help you return to the condition you were in prior to the injury. There are several forms of damages that you may recover in a medical malpractice award --- economic (for lost wages or medical expenses), non-economic (for pain and suffering), or punitive (to punish reckless behavior) damages. You may also receive compensation for future medical expenses and loss of future earnings. Punitive damages occur only in rare cases when it is proved that the medical practitioner had reckless or malicious intent.
If you believe that you or someone you care about has been a victim of medical malpractice or doctor negligence, you should seek legal advice immediately. The Glassman Law Firm, P.C. takes pride in assisting its clients who have suffered injury due to the negligence of health care professionals. We will fight for your rights in the healthcare industry.
The Glassman Law Firm, P.C. of St. Louis has been helping personal injury victims in the State of Missouri win substantial settlements and awards for many years. Our team has over 50 years of combined hospital and courtroom experience, and we are proud to say that the majority of our clients have been referred to us by previously satisfied clients.
Contact us today at (314) 446-6000, or you may contact us via our online form.
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