Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Malpractice suits may lead to changes in medical community

Pennsylvania residents may be interested to learn that some medical malpractice lawsuits may be the driving force for making some needed changes in the country's health care system. Although some reforms have resulted in better patient safety, some hospitals and associations are reluctant to make changes.

In the 1980s, no punitive penalties were given against New York Hospital after a suit alleged that an 18-year-old patient died due to improperly prescribed medication issued by an unsupervised intern. Some argue that if penalties had been imposed, the medical community might have restricted work hours and increased supervision sooner than 2011.

Moreover, some organizations like the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists have refused to implement changes. Although the New York Presbyterian Hospital executed 21 reforms that reduced the number of unexpected death or serious injuries to patients from 1.04 per 1000 deliveries to approximately zero in 2008 and 2009, the ACOG refuses to do the same due to concerns of infringing both hospital and doctor rights.

In some cases, however, litigation does lead to reform. For instance, The American Society of Anesthesiologists assessed the causes of patients' injuries and made several changes that included mandatory monitoring and limited work hours after a series of malpractice lawsuits. Within a decade, the anesthesia mortality rate fell to 1 in 200,000 administrations. Prior to the changes, the mortality rate was 1 in 6,000 administrations.

Individuals who were given a misdiagnosis or who have suffered other forms of medical errors may have the option to file a suit against the hospital or physician for compensation of their pain and suffering. Consulting with an attorney may be of benefit to these individuals.

Source: Forbes, "Malpractice Lawsuits Aren't Just About Money", Steve Cohen, June 18, 2014

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