Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. The first two are heart disease and cancer. This, according to a British Medical Journal analysis by Martin Makary and Michael Daniel, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This article follows on several studies, including the landmark Institute of Medicine “To Err Is Human.” In To Err Is Human The Institute of Medicine, the branch of the government that studies medical issues, found that 98,000 people were dying from medical errors in the United States. This put the number of deaths at higher than work injuries and car wrecks combined.

According to Makary and Daneil, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to categorize medical errors as a cause of death. The article criticizes the medical community for using an international classification of disease (ICD) system as the primary indicator of death. Causes of death not associated with an ICD code, such as human error, are not captured in the system. Accordingly, there is no real way to track how many people die of medical errors on a yearly basis in the United States without extensive research, like they did.

As an attorney who handles medical negligence, workers compensation and other injury claims I see and talk to numerous people who have bad surgical results. Quite frankly, many of them are not necessarily the doctors’ fault. On the other hand, there are clearly too many medical complications. This is been studied many times. The studies conclude that patients who go to the hospital take a risk in going there.

To a large extent, the outcome of a given procedure is not in the hands of the patient. It is very difficult for patients to know what physician is good at any given procedure or what medical institution does a decent job of providing medical care.

Fortunately, ProPublica has done a large study of medical providers and their complication rates. The Surgeon Scorecard is here.  This database studies surgeons throughout the United States and calculates death and complication rates for various types of surgeries. My video discussing this database is here.

Tort reform advocates frequently claim physician supply is a tort reform issue. Proponents claim that unless there is reform physicians will flee the state. As an Illinois injury claim lawyer who accepts medical malpractice claims I believe this is relevant to Illinois law because lawmakers here have tried to cap damages in Illinois medical malpractice claims three times. The Illinois Supreme Court has held these caps unconstitutional each time.

In a recent article entitled “Does Tort Reform Affect Physicians Supply – Evidence from Texas“, David Hymen, Charles Silver and Bernard Black examine the question. David Hymen is from University of Illinois, School of Medicine and Law. Charles Silver is from the University of Texas, School of Law.

The authors chose Texas because it adopted fairly strict reforms in 2003. Texas capped non-economic damages against physicians to $250,000.00 with no adjustment for inflation. There is also a cap of $250,000.00 applies to each hospital with a total cap of $500,000.00 for non-economic damages. Lawsuits dropped significantly. Payouts dropped 70%. The authors felt that any physician increase or reduction should be apparent by now.