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A Doctor's Commentary on Medical Malpractice

"The bitter fact is that there is no appetite in the medical community to come clean about every medical error." These are the words of the chief of pediatric cardiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Darshak Sanghavi.

In an eye-opening article in the Boston Globe, Dr. Sanghavi discussed why doctors do not apologize for their mistakes. Unlike other articles by medical professionals, however, he does not point fingers at medical malpractice claims.

Instead, he points to the studies showing medical malpractice premiums are going down, and 97 percent of all medical malpractice claims involve an actual injury (of those claims, two-thirds were caused by medical negligence). What, then, prevents doctors from confessing to their mistakes?

Dr. Sanghavi writes that doctors believe they are the victims of frivolous lawsuits and that the deck is stacked against them. To them, medical malpractice lawsuits are attacks on their reputations "that demand retaliation, not appeasement."

Yet, as long as medical professionals cover up their mistakes and refuse to apologize when their mistakes become public, they continue to make medical malpractice lawsuits necessary. How else will these doctors be held accountable for their mistakes? How else will the medical profession know it needs to improve on patient safety? How else will victims be able to breathe again after they suffer serious injuries or the death of a loved one due to medical malpractice?

In 1991, a study showed that only two percent of the victims of medical negligence ever bring a lawsuit against the medical professionals that injured them. Imagine how many more poor decisions go unnoticed and are repeated?

Until the medical community chooses to apologize to patients and be proactive in their response to medical errors, the only recourse available is a medical malpractice lawsuit. Therefore, if you believe you have been injured by medical negligence, speak up. Only by speaking up can your recover compensation for your injuries and help ensure what happened to you does not happen to someone else.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Medical malpractice: Why is it so hard for doctors to apologize?" Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, Jan. 27, 2013

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