Wrongful Death – Personal Injury – Frivolous lawsuits Are Not The Issue – Carelessness Is.
January 3, 2012
We have heard so many tales of woes about how medical malpractice lawsuits are ruining the medical health of this country by making healthcare expensive for all and by causing the exodus of doctors from the so-called “judicial hellholes” (of which Illinois is supposedly one) toward States where there are limits on justice that a victim of a doctor’s carelessness can hope to obtain.
The problem with that proposition is that it is simply not true. What causes medical malpractice lawsuits are not patients and/or juries and their verdicts or lack of caps on those verdicts, but medical malpractice. The best way to prevent a lawsuit based on medical malpractice is to not commit carelessness.
Note that here, we are not talking about things that may go wrong in the natural progression of a treatment: there are times when a treatment goes wrong through no fault of the medical provider and/or the attending physician. Things may go wrong because Medicine is an art. What we are talking about here are actual damages caused to individuals that are the direct result of carelessness–that is different from simply not getting the intended result. For example, damages that could cause for failure of a doctor to simply read objective tests that are performed and that are ready to be reviewed but the doctor simply decides not to avail himself f the useful information those tests provides him. That is when medical malpractice lawsuits may be expected.
Nearly 4,000 tests for heart disease performed over the last three years at Harlem Hospital Center – more than half of all such tests performed – were never read by doctors charged with making a diagnosis, hospital officials acknowledged Tuesday.
The echocardiogram tests, a type of ultrasound used to evaluate heart muscle and valve functions, were ordered by doctors at the hospital. The tests were stored on a computer and basically forgotten, officials said. The lapse occurred because the cardiology service at the hospital had developed a system by which technicians were given the responsibility to scan all tests and flag any that looked abnormal, so that they would be given priority when doctors read them.
It appears, officials said, that the tests that were not flagged were put aside and forgotten.
The city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the public hospital system, including Harlem Hospital, and Columbia University, whose medical school supplies the cardiologists who work at Harlem Hospital Center, acknowledged the problem in a joint statement on Tuesday, after being asked about it by The New York Times.
“While the process the doctors followed may have alerted cardiologists to those echocardiograms that were most likely to be abnormal, the failure to read the echocardiograms in a timely manner is inexcusable and may have placed patients at risk,” Alan D. Aviles, hospitals corporation president, said in the statement. It was unclear who developed the screening system, hospital officials said.