Don’t let expressions of remorse halt a medical malpractice claim
How good is your doctor? If you’re looking for a doctor that’s never been sued for malpractice, the odds are strong that you’ll have to hunt for a while before you find one.
According to studies, about 55 percent of physicians in this country have faced malpractice suits. Half of those have been accused of negligence more than once. The news gets even worse if you’re seeing a specialist. About 85 percent of surgeons have been sued. It’s the same for obstetricians.
Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that the majority of physicians insist that the malpractice suits against them are entirely unfounded. A total of 89 percent claim that the lawsuits against them were without merit. Around 58 percent were actually surprised to find out that their patients were even suing!
Despite the supposedly unfounded nature of all those lawsuits, 68 percent of doctors who have been sued admit to settling their cases for up to half a million in damages, while 17 percent admit that they settled for more.
According to the same report, patients are most likely to file a lawsuit over one of three issues:
- A delayed/missing diagnosis
- Treatment/surgical complications that could have been avoided with better care
- The failure to provide treatment, leading to a progression of disease
Doctors are counseled to avoid lawsuits by doing things like expressing sympathy to patients and their families and giving apologies — which seems rather cynical. If a doctor has to be told to express sympathy to his or her patients and their families after something goes wrong, the odds are good that the expression is insincere at best.
Essentially, the knowledge that your doctor has faced a malpractice suit isn’t necessarily a huge concern. Professionals do make mistakes. One or two malpractice claims should be seen as an aberration. Any more, however, could be a trend that should alarm you.
Of more concern is the idea that doctors may be reluctant to acknowledge their own fallibility and seek to avoid legal responsibility for mistakes through expressions of remorse. No patient — or patient’s family member — should allow a doctor’s words of regret prevent him or her from asking for fair compensation for a medical injury that could have been avoided.