Blog Archive

Patient Safety Crisis: 440,000 Deaths per Year due to Medical Malpractice. Tort Reform is/was Never the Answer.

“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”

— Sophocles, Antigone

In the most recent peer reviewed investigation into the rate of death caused by preventable medical errors, The Journal of Patient Safety revealed a staggering number of 440,000 deaths per year.  The seminal study into the death rate due to medical neglect, published thirty years ago in 1984 by the Institute of Medicine, revealed a medical error death total of 98,000 per year.  The over fourfold increase in death due to preventable medical errors is eye opening to say the least.  What’s more, the Journal of Patient Safety further estimates that for every preventable death, medical errors produce 10 to 20 incidents of serious harm.  This makes injury or death due to medical negligence a national epidemic.

Clearly, we can do better.  Health care providers, hospitals, and the systems that bind them must begin devoting themselves to two important first steps: (a) acknowledging the problem and (b) doing everything possible to fix it.

Ambulance Chaser or Guardian of Community Safety? Will the Real Trial Lawyers Please Stand up?

The common view of a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer is not flattering.   Most people see the PI lawyer as an “ambulance chasing” parasite on our economy and our society.  This image, perpetuated by those who oppose personal injury lawyers in court, prevails.  Who are those who oppose personal injury lawyers in court?  Insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals, product manufacturers, and doctors, to name a few.  There are plenty of resources available to generate the propaganda machine that feeds and perpetuates the adverse view of personal injury lawyers in our society.

The fault is not all the big money, powerful interests.  There are, of course, plenty of personal injury lawyers who feed the flame and who lack regard for a calling higher than lining their own pockets.  But this group is a minority.  Most personal injury lawyers willing to take on America’s biggest and most powerful entities are devoted to more than their own profit.  These men and women are empowered by the realization that their work makes a difference, that by holding negligent (and worse) actors accountable for the harm they cause, no matter how rich or powerful the negligent actor is, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer helps make all of us safer.

Medical Malpractice and the Alarming Rate of Diagnosis Errors

New research released this month by a leading patient safety expert shows that 1 out of every 20 patients, or approximately 12 million U.S. adults each year, will be misdiagnosed by their doctor or hospital.  These numbers are staggering because they involve major illnesses like colon cancer, lung cancer, pneumonia, infections, and other serious, life threatening diseases.  What’s worse is that several experts believe the newly released data is a bare minimum, and that it undercounts the true incidence of medical diagnosis errors.  The culprit?  Lack of attention, insufficient time spent with patients, lack of technical support, and a “chaotic outpatient environment” for evaluating patients.

Patients must be on guard.  They must ask questions and push for better answers.

But doctors and hospitals should eliminate this epidemic of mistakes. Think about it: if airplanes and airplane pilots had this type of failure rate, if 1 out of every 20 commercial aircraft crashed in flight, almost no one would travel by air.

McCall v. United States of America: A Victory for Democracy, for Florida, and for High Quality Health Care

Today the Florida Supreme Court declared that non-economic damage caps in medical malpractice cases violate the Florida Constitution.  This is an historic moment.  Damage caps in tort cases, and medical malpractice cases in particular, were the cornerstone of the “tort reform” agenda.  Tort reform was, and is, the insidious political tool Republicans, under the tutelage of Karl Rove and George and Jeb Bush, used to advance their agenda and win elections.  Rove and the Bush brothers used tort reform to scare voters into believing that lawsuits, trial lawyers, and jury verdicts were the chief threat to our economy, to jobs, to reasonable prices, and to access to health care.  By creating the bogeyman of “greedy trial lawyers” and runaway juries, Rove and the Bush brothers persuaded legislatures, like the Florida legislature, to eviscerate the jury system altogether.  Ignoring the facts that jury verdicts are the product of weeks of intense and careful analysis of evidence, that juries are historically eloquent at determining the fairness and righteousness of a cause, and most importantly, that jury verdicts make us all safer by creating assurances and incentives that curb anti-social and dangerous behavior, Rove and the Bush brothers pulled the wool over our eyes and scared us into ideas that would destroy our judicial branch.