Over the years, Americans have become used to the constant cry of proponents of tort “reform”: medical malpractice insurance premiums are too high, they are driving the increase in medical costs, and our society thus must punish medical malpractice attorneys and deny justice to their clients to protect doctors and the public. At first blush, it is an appealing argument – or would be, if it were true.
Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys, however, have argued for a long time that so-called “greedy lawyers” and their clients, patients who have suffered injury or death due to the negligence of a physician or hospital, are not to blame for increased health care costs. It is simply unjust to argue that someone who has suffered serious injury, disability, or even death due to the wrongful conduct of a careless physician should not be compensated for that injury. Instead, we have argued, physicians, hospitals, medical boards and organizations, and medical regulatory bodies should look to themselves for the source of high malpractice insurance premiums.
Now, a new study by the University of Michigan Health System, Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston (funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine) shows that we have been right all along. Not only could incidents of medical malpractice – and thus medical malpractice insurance premiums – be reduced if physicians and hospitals took greater care and put better procedures in place to prevent accidents, but we now also know that medical malpractice claims can be greatly reduced by appropriate conduct on the part of doctors and hospitals after the malpractice has occurred.
The study, which began in 2001 and ran through 2007, looked at the effects of the simple expedient of respectful, responsible conduct after a medical mistake had occurred. Each time a medical error occurred, whether it came to the attention of staff via voluntary reporting or patient complaint, health workers were encouraged to take a few simple steps:
- tell the patient and/or his family that the error had occurred;
- tell the patient and/or his family how the error was made and who made it;
- tell the patient and/or his family what was being done to prevent the error from occurring again;
- apologize sincerely to the patient and/or his family; and
- offer to fairly compensate the patient and/or his family.
To most people, these simple steps seem quite obvious – these are things that we would like to believe that responsible professionals would do on their own. Unfortunately, our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys are experienced enough to know that these steps are seldom taken, because physicians, hospitals, and insurers feel that admitting what has occurred only leaves them vulnerable to suits by the victims of their negligence.
That is what makes the University of Michigan study truly groundbreaking.
And the results speak for themselves. When healthcare workers followed these simple protocols, all areas of risk management improved. There were half as many medical malpractice lawsuits, nearly thirty percent fewer compensation claims, disputes were resolved faster, and legal costs were reduced. Even the overall amount paid in compensation to victims went down by an astounding sixty percent: that’s right, in spite of the offers to pay voluntarily and the admissions of fault.
We at Passen & Powell are unsurprised by these findings. Most victims of medical malpractice do not want to sue, they simply want to receive just compensation for the harm that was done to them. For some, especially those who are well insured and whose injuries were not permanent or were comparatively minor, it is not about compensation at all, but about receiving an apology for the ordeal they were subjected to, and ensuring that others will not have to suffer in the same way.
When doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers stonewall victims and their families in the name of “defensive strategy,” “risk management,” or simple self-preservation, patients become angry, are forced to sue, and costs escalate. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys applaud the University of Michigan Health System, Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston not only for doing the right things to reduce medical malpractice claims, but also for simply doing the right thing.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.