These are the two basic truths in medical malpractice litigation. We have gained this information from our own practice and by sharing information with colleagues across the country and State of New Jersey on our list serves.
FIRST, the same errors are committed repeatedly. Examples:
- Death during laparoscopic surgery. The first step in this operation is the placement of the trocar. In inexperienced hands, if the trocar is not placed properly a major blood vessel will be perforated and the patient will bleed to death.
- Neurological damage after back surgery. After back surgery there is a potential for a blood clot to form and press on the spine. No injury will occur if the blood clot is removed promptly. Paralysis or permanent neurologist injury will occur if there is a delay.
- Brain damaged infant with childbirth. Not every delivery is routine. Observation of the process will lead to an awareness of the problem, delivery of the infant and no injury.
- Failure to make an early diagnosis of an infection. The patient’s complaints are not listened to. The signs and symptoms of the infection are ignored and what could have been resolved early and easily can lead to chronic osteomyelitis and disability.
SECOND, the same physician commits one error after another.
- You as a patient are generally not able to learn about a physician’s prior errors. Ask a physician and they do not tell the truth. The malpractice suit is settled and a confidentiality provision is inserted in the settlement. Thus, you cannot access the records that exist which would provide you with this information.
- Always remember most errors do not result in malpractice litigation but they do cause harm.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO:
- GO WITH EXPERIENCE: Do not have a complex operation done with an inexperienced physician.
- SEARCH THE PHYSICIAN ON-LINE: Bad reviews may have a basis in truth.
- DON’T BE SHY: If a problem arises be an advocate for yourself and demand to be heard.
DON’T LET A NURSE PRACTITIONER OR PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT HAVE THE LAST WORD: Although these healthcare providers are well-qualified, the situation may call for an examination by a physician. If it does then feel free to demand it, and if denied, then consider going elsewhere, including an emergency room.