According to several studies, relationship issues between patients and their doctors are a major cause of hospital malpractice and negligence. This breakdown in patient-doctor relations most often hurts the communication that is necessary for safe and effective treatment. Some of the common causes of hospital malpractice and negligence linked to this poor communication include physicians who do the following:
- Fail to fully listen to patients
- Fail to talk openly about a condition
- Attempt to mislead patients
- Fail to warn of long-term neurodevelopmental problems
- Desert patients or are unavailable
- Devalue patient or family views
- Deliver information poorly
- Fail to listen to and grasp the patient’s perspective
Other research has found that a surprisingly small number of doctors account for the bulk of all malpractice payouts to patients. According to research gathered from 1990 to 2002, just five percent of doctors were responsible for 54 percent of these payouts.
Furthermore, doctors who have had multiple malpractice payouts against them have rarely received reprimand from their state medical boards. In fact, just eight percent of doctors with two or more malpractice payouts have been disciplined. Moreover, just 17 percent of doctors with five or more malpractice payouts against them have been disciplined by their state medical board.
Hospital Staff Negligence
However, doctors are not the only health care professionals who are responsible for medical negligence and malpractice accusations. In addition, the hospital itself is frequently not held responsible for the errors of doctors unless they are official hospital employees. However, other hospital employees, such as paramedics, nurses, and medical technicians, can bring negligence charges on a hospital. Serious injuries and even death to patients can be the result of this hospital negligence, as these patients may provide the bulk of the care to patients.
When patients enter a hospital, they believe their care will adhere to the usual conventional standards. However, due to a number of possible factors, such as understaffing or overworking, patients may not receive the care from these professionals they deserve. There are a number of ways in which a hospital can be considered negligent, including the examples below:
- Surgical and other types of procedures are done by personnel who are not qualified or certified to perform them or they are not properly supervised
- Surgical mistakes such as performing the surgery on the wrong site, cutting tissue close to the surgical site, a surgical implement or tool left behind in the patient
- Errors with a patient’s medication like giving the wrong dose or the wrong medication
- Communication lapses among all of the medical personnel caring for the patient
- Patients falling
- Not understanding and responding quickly enough to emergency cases or severe health issues that come on suddenly
- Malfunctioning hospital equipment that causes injury
- Infections contracted by patients while in the hospital
- Mistakes with anesthesia, such as giving an improper dosage
- Medical workers, technicians, and even non-medical staff whose conduct has been improper
- Screening before surgery that is inadequate which can result in serious complications after surgery
- Inadequate patient supervision
- Inadequate screening of all employees, current or potential
Lowering Your Risks of Hospital Malpractice
Patients can help lower their chances of hospital negligence by ensuring that the hospital personnel know that their family is acting as their advocate. They should be allowed to receive any and all information regarding care including current status and all medications being given.
If it is a planned hospital stay, patients are encouraged to ask ahead of time all the questions they may have regarding the procedure or treatment and what happens after that procedure. In addition, patients should find out what medications will likely be given and be sure to find out how they could react with medications already being taken. Patients are also encouraged to take those prescriptions with them to the hospital. Having all the information about medications, especially painkillers that may be given, is extremely important to avoid the high risk of error.
Amitabh Chandra, et al. “Malpractice Risk According To Physician Specialty.” The New England Journal Of Medicine 365.7 (2011): 629-636. MEDLINE with Full Text. Web. 30 May 2012.
Huntington, Beth and Nettie Kuhn. “Communication gaffes: a root cause of malpractice claims.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, April 2003. Web. 30 May 2012.
“Quick Facts on Medical Malpractice Issues.” Public Citizen, n.d. Web. 30 May 2012.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
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- What Does “Preponderance of the Evidence” in Relation to Medical Malpractice Mean?
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