Each year an estimated 32,000 individuals are killed from an act of serious negligence on the part of hospitals across the country. This is partly due to a severe lack of workplace safety regulations, a lack of proper enforcement, overworked physicians, unfit physicians, under-trained assistants and much, much more. One things for sure: Its costing our country dearly.
A recent study finds that these medical errors are leading to over 17 billion dollars per year in costs for both victims and medical institutions. On top of this, no single medical condition is accounting for more than 5 percent of the total malpractice lawsuits per year, meaning these workplace errors are almost completely unrelated to the original cause of the patient's visit! Are these medical errors an unavoidable result of complicated procedures, coupled with a complicated, expensive, and lucrative legal system? Or are these cases avoidable. Let's take a look.
It is no secret that most physicians spend far too much time "on-call". A recent study of medical students at a prestigious university showed an alarming amount of physicians in training were subjected to near hazardous amounts of work. Would cutting back on the average work week for these physicians reduce the yearly amount spent on malpractice lawsuits? Or does the problem lie elsewhere?
Malpractice Caps, Tort Reform, and Other Legal Issues
There are many in the field that believe that the issue is not with the hospital workplace itself, but the legal system "protecting" it. Many of the malpractice cases that lead to a settlement result from a case in which the original patient was up against a serious medical condition, with a low likelihood of survival. Should more be done to protect the hospitals from being brought to trial by these high-risk medical conditions? One can imagine a future where a hospital will refuse to treat a patient needing a very difficult procedure or treatment, for fear that in the likely event of the patient's death, a lawsuit will follow.
These alarming hospital injuries, and associated costs, are not going unnoticed. Many states are beginning to enact malpractice caps, which limit the amount of compensation a victim may receive. One has to wonder if this is the right path to less hospital injuries and / or less cost associated with the lawsuits that result.