Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have discussed how certain hospitals have benefited from “transparent medicine” and “hospital responsibility” policies in response to instances of medical negligence. In short, these are policies aim to encourage physicians, hospital employees, and other healthcare providers to take responsibility for their mistakes, and offer to compensate the victims accordingly.
For example, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan Health System, Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston, after instances of known medical malpractice, doctors and medical workers were asked to:
- notify the patient and/or his family that the error had occurred, how it was made and who made it;
- tell them what is being done to prevent the error from occurring again;
- apologize; and
- offer fair compensation.
The results were substantial . . . from the hospital’s business standpoint. Both the number of lawsuits and overall liability declined. Furthermore, the overall compensation paid to the victims of medical errors also declined.
At first blush, these new policies of “accepting responsibility” are appealing. The prevailing wisdom until recently has been that doctors and hospitals should enforce a cone of silence when mistakes happen. The theory was that doing so would avoid lawsuits, and decrease liability when those suits occurred – that admitting mistakes would only lead to greater liability.
However, our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys understand that these policies are motivated by saving money, rather than saving lives. Hospitals, no doubt advised by business consultants, know they can save millions of dollars by offering to “fairly compensate” victims of medical malpractice for pennies on the dollar, far less that their injuries are actually worth. Because these offers are being made “promptly” after the injury is discovered, these payments are being made before the victims have a chance to meet with an attorney, investigate and evaluate their case, or truly understand the nature and extent of their injuries.
These are not gratuitous contributions by the hospitals — they are usually accompanied by “release” documents to be signed by the victims who receive these payments. The releases carry with them the legal consequence of malpractice victims being forever barred from seeking legal recourse if the payments turn out to be grossly inadequate to compensate them for their injury.
Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys are not necessarily opposed to voluntary payments by hospitals in cases of medical error. We certainly encourage doctors and hospitals to voluntarily make fair and reasonable payments to victims: payments that take into account the past, present, and future injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, as well as values such as the loss of normal life activities, wage loss, and others. But if the “amazing results” thus far are any indicator, this is not what is occurring.
We encourage any patient who is approached under these new Chicago programs to think twice before accepting payment and signing a release. Seek counsel from an experienced medical malpractice attorney who will be able to thoroughly investigate your case, take the time to truly understand your injuries, and give you an idea as to the amount of compensation you are entitled for your injuries.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.