Holding Medical Professionals Accountable - Medical Malpractive

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One issue the American media loves to speak about is tort reform. Itís one of the favorite terms used by politicians, especially conservative, during election cycles, and it simply means making it harder for individuals to sue companies or individuals for wrongs or damages that have been done to them, or at the very least limiting the amount of damages.

Many times, politicians will try to tie this into healthcare. They suggest healthcare costs are so outrageous partially because doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other medical professionals and facilities must pay such high premiums in case they get sued. However, when critics mention this, they tend to forget a very important fact Ė doctors and hospitals donít lose suits simply because
people are greedy, but because they made mistakes, and it is often civil suits that hold them accountable.

Medical Mistakes Have Consequences

Itís true that the two main civil suits brought against medical professionals, medical malpractice and wrongful death, are expensive, and there is good reason for this. Medical professionals, and especially doctors, are some of the most skilled and highly trained individuals on the planet. They train for years to become proficient at their craft, but, as humans, make mistakes. However, there are safeguards in place to make sure their mistakes are stopped before they start. This is true from hospitals to nursing homes, where strict standards and practices are expected to be rigorously enforced. What they are working with arenít like other professions, where mistakes may be corrected: the mistakes they make are with human lives. Which is why civil suits are one of the most effective ways to make sure careless mistakes, at the least, are few and far between.

Filing Suit for Compensation

To understand the tools at the consumersí disposal, definitions are necessary. The first is medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is defined by the National Institutes of Health as: ďAny act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient. Medical malpractice is a specific subset of tort law that deals with professional negligence.Ē

What this essentially means is that if the doctor or nurses or hospital act outside parameters set by common standards and guidelines, they are liable for your well-being. For example, if a nursing home fails to keep to sanitary standards and a client becomes ill of an infection as a result, the home is liable for the resulting damages, and as a result, the home and those responsible may be sued in civil court for damages. At times, unfortunate things happen. A person that has smoked for 50 years may have problems breathing through no fault of the doctor; however, if that person is being treated and is given a wrong medication to which he is allergic, that is directly the responsibility of the hospital and they may be held liable.
Wrongful death is also essentially a medical malpractice suit, but one that results in death as opposed to injury. In the case of wrongful death, the deceased family or loved ones generally bring suit and seek compensation for their loss.

What Can Be Done?

The issue of wrongful death and medical malpractice, as a result, are contentious for a variety of reasons. Medical professionals and insurance companies obviously want to protect themselves and their clients, and want to pay as little as possible. Both groups have large and powerful groups which lobby effectively to lessen penalties and strengthen laws to stay out of court.

On the other hand, patients who have been injured or loved ones who have lost loved ones and are seeking compensation for medical mistakes wish to earn the full and proper compensation for their injuries and losses. Like many issues, this one may be decided in the voting booths by those we choose to represent us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Weinberg
Mr. Weinberg is a pioneer in representing Nursing Home, Assisted Living, and Developmental Disability victims and their families. His practice is focused on those areas and other serious personal injuries and wrongful death. He and his staff understand when a facility fails to live up to the trust placed with the facility in caring for a loved one. He has been an attorney since 1983. In 2001 he founded and was the first chairperson of the Maryland Trial Lawyerís Associationís Nursing Home Litigation Section (now MAJ).

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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