Dealing with a medical malpractice lawsuit can be emotionally and physically draining. Having this issue hanging over your head adds even more stress to your work, which makes you even more paranoid and afraid that you’ll make the same mistake again. It’s not just something you can forget about. For doctors and healthcare providers, it’s important to be in the moment and to focus on the patient in front of them with no worries.
Peter Ubel, MD recently wrote an article on KevinMD.com about the issue of medical malpractice claims. Dr. Ubel pointed out that malpractice claims associated with temporary injuries take about a year to resolve while claims associated with permanent injuries or deaths take about a year and a half to resolve. For neurosurgeons, the wait time is even more, spending about a quarter of their careers with open malpractice claims.
Is this timetable to settle medical malpractice lawsuits fair to either party involved? Is it the fault of politicians? Are they not doing enough to make medical malpractice reform a priority? These are just some of the questions posed by many in the healthcare community.
One surgeon claims that one possible reason claims take too long to resolve is the involvement of lawyers. Since defense lawyers are paid according to billable hours, it is in their best interest to make the claim last as long as possible.
It’s obvious that the malpractice system is broken and needs to be fixed, but how can people push for an improvement? What is the next step?
One idea that has been proposed is to implement “Health Courts” where legal experts would review a claim and decided immediately whether a case required further investigation or if the claim has no merit.
Because of the fear of being sued again doctors and healthcare providers continue to practice defensive medicine. This means that they’re ordering more tests and prescribing more medicine just to make sure that everything is OK with the patient and that they’ve investigated every possible avenue to prevent the patient from coming back and suing for negligence.
It’s obvious that change does need to happen, and it will take a great deal of time, energy, but most of all, a commitment from the healthcare community, politicians, and the public at large to make these changes. Educating people and spreading the word about this issue is something we can do right now. With enough intention, the ball will get rolling and build momentum for positive action to be taken.