Medical malpractice statistics

According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), over 225,000 people die each year due to iatrogenic causes. This has become the third leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer.

  • 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medication

What is “medical malpractice?”

Medical malpractice is a broad term generally used to describe any treatment, lack of treatment, or other departure from accepted standards of medical care, health care, or safety on the part of a health care provider that causes harm to a patient. Examples of medical malpractice can take many forms, too numerous to list. Medical malpractice can include, however, misdiagnosis, improper treatment, failure to treat, delay in treatment, failure to perform appropriate follow-up, prescription errors, etc. In many instances, medical malpractice is not obvious to a lay-person and requires the review and analysis by medical experts.

What must be shown to prevail in a medical malpractice case?

While there are various types of medical malpractice claims, generally speaking, a claimant must usually show the following:

  • the health care provider owed a duty to the patient;
  • the health care provider breached that duty;
  • the patient suffered an injury; and
  • the patient’s injury was a proximate cause of the health care provider’s breach.

A physician owes a duty to a patient once a “doctor-patient” relationship has been formed. Such a relationship is usually formed when the physician agrees to care for the patient. Nonetheless, even if it is established that a duty is existed and the health care provider breached that duty (e.g. failed to meet the requisite standard of care), a claimant may not recover unless the claimant suffered injuries that were a direct result of the breach. If the breach resulted in no harm to the patient, a claimant generally has no right to recovery.

Who can be held accountable for medical malpractice?

Generally speaking, a medical malpractice claim may be pursued against those who provide medical or health care to a patient, including, physicians, registered nurses, hospitals, dentists, nursing homes, and pharmacists. Medical malpractice claims may be brought against individuals, partnerships, professional associations, and corporations.

What is the first step in pursuing a medical malpractice claim?

The first step in pursuing a medical malpractice case is suspecting that one may have been the victim of medical malpractice. While not every bad result is due to medical malpractice, one who develops a “gut feeling” that something was wrong should consult a qualified attorney to review the matter, who often will consult with medical professionals. This process often involves the obtaining and review of medical records and other pertinent information. If it is determined that one has a good case, the next step is usually to give written notice of the claim to the individuals or entities that are believed to have committed the medical malpractice.

How do I know if I have a good case?

Given that each case turns upon its own facts, determining the merits of your case usually involves a two-pronged process. A medical review must be conducted to evaluate whether or not the medical professional(s) in question acted, erred, or failed to act in such a manner so as to fail to meet the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances. If, from a medical perspective, medical malpractice is found, a further review of the case must be made by an attorney in order to determine the viability of the claim from a legal perspective, often considering such factors as the statute of limitations, the potential recovery, the ability to collect upon a judgment if obtained, etc. Many factors and considerations go into such an analysis. Given the complexity of the medical and legal issues, one who suspects that they may have been the victim of medical malpractice should consult a qualified attorney who can, along with the assistance of medical professionals, analyze the merits of one’s claim.

See also…

Medical Malpractice – Forum