When a mistake is made in the medical field, the concern should be over how to address the mistake and make sure it never happens again. Unfortunately, the majority of medical errors lead to stony silence from doctors and nurses and a lifetime of unanswered questions for the patients who were harmed. While some hospitals and administrators have encouraged doctors to work with patients to address errors and reach amicable solutions, in most cases serious errors are swept under the rug.
In 1991, a major study concluded that 98 percent of patients who are harmed by medical negligence do not file a lawsuit. As medical malpractice claims have actually decreased in recent years, it is clear that medical errors, even those that kill people, lead to no consequences for those responsible. A 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine did an analysis of randomly selected medical malpractice claims and found that 97 percent involved a medical injury and roughly two-thirds were caused by medical mistakes. The inescapable conclusion is that most medical malpractice lawsuits are valid and the vast majority of medical negligence situations never see the inside of a courtroom.
The traditional response to malpractice claims in the medical field is to deny and defend. Doctors generally refuse to acknowledge errors, despite overwhelming evidence that medical negligence kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. A patient who has been harmed will likely find it impossible to get answers unless he or she is willing to file a medical malpractice claim. With no information, and confronted with a wall of silence or denial, it is no surprise that so many people who have been legitimately hurt by medical negligence do not receive proper compensation.
Source: The Boston Globe, “Medical malpractice: Why is it so hard for doctors to apologize?,” by Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, 27 January 2013