Malpractice suits are a time-consuming, emotionally draining reality of being a medical doctor or being under a doctor’s care. Sometimes, unfortunately, doctors make mistakes when treating patients, often resulting in permanent injury or even death. When this is the case, patients are fully justified in seeking financial remuneration through a malpractice suit.
There are ways to avoid this extreme set of circumstances, however. For example, many doctors ensure that nothing has been missed with thorough testing, extra office visits, and preventative procedures. This practice is known as “defensive medicine.” Doctors are well aware that it is necessary to cover every possibility in case complications arise, but there are much simpler ways to prevent lawsuits. Medical doctors and empowered patients can both benefit from following these tips.
Communication is Key
It seems obvious, but the best way to avoid medical malpractice suits is to tackle any issues before they become problems. Studies have shown that doctors who make their patients feel at ease and ask them questions are far less likely to be sued than physicians with a less than ideal bedside manner. Patients report that the overwhelming majority of malpractice suits stem from negligence rather than medical errors. The numbers are clear; patients who feel ignored or dismissed by their doctors are far more likely to sue them if their treatment turns out badly.
Strategies for Doctors and Patients
For doctors, the course of action is fairly obvious. Establishing a rapport with patients and maintaining open communication before any problems arise will make it much easier to deal with the fallout of medical complications. A recent University of Michigan program based around this principle encouraged doctors to be open with their patients about medical errors, offer courses of action to redress the errors, and apologize. Ten years after the program was begun, in 2010, the rate of lawsuits had dropped by 65%, legal costs went down by 61%, and liability/patient compensation costs dropped by 59%. Clearly a little communication goes a long way.
Patients should likewise try to open the lines of communication with their doctors before undergoing treatment. Asking questions and expressing any doubts before beginning a procedure will ensure that the doctor takes the treatment seriously. It’s important for patients to feel comfortable expressing concerns to their physicians, so they should get a second opinion if they feel the current healthcare provider is not adequately meeting their needs.
Current efforts to improve the risk of lawsuits focus on tort reform, making it harder for patients to sue for damages. Evidence shows, however, that an environment of mutual respect can go much further in preventing malpractice lawsuits. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.
If you have questions about malpractice law or feel that you have been injured through a doctor’s negligence, contact the law offices of Antin, Ehrlich, and Epstein at 212-221-5999 for a free consultation. Our expert personal injury lawyers can assess your case and offer advice on how to proceed.