The experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Passen & Powell have followed with interest this year’s in-depth and insightful series on medical malpractice by the Las Vegas Sun. Although some of the Sun’s findings have been unique to the Las Vegas area, or to Nevada generally, many of the insights gleaned and much of the information uncovered is equally applicable in Illinois and the Chicago area.
That is because, at base, medical malpractice, and particularly injuries from neglect and preventable medical error, results from the same inexcusable causes. That’s why the most recent installment in the series was particularly illuminating. Last week’s medical malpractice study focused on the root causes, the systemic problems that result in a culture where medical malpractice is commonplace.
The Sun’s report identified four major causes of medical malpractice in the Las Vegas area, each of which is equally applicable here.
The first such cause is profit-seeking. Although this problem takes a different form in Nevada than in Illinois, this root cause has infected the medical culture in each state.
In Las Vegas, nearly all of the hospitals are private, for-profit corporations inclined to place shareholders’ financial interests before the best interests of the patients. Here in Chicago, we are blessed with many university and public hospitals. But profit-seeking is still a serious issue contributing to medical malpractice here. While university and public hospitals are not responsible to private shareholders, they have still become inordinately concerned about preserving the bottom line – even at the expense of those they serve.
Moreover, individual doctors have now become profit-seeking problems here in Illinois. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers recently wrote about the many Illinois doctors who accept compensation to promote pharmaceutical products, creating a dire conflict of interest and placing their own material advancement above the health and safety of patients. Likewise, we have previously written about the prevalent problems with Illinois doctors who have committed Medicare fraud through such dangerous profit-seeking practices as leaving student surgeons unattended, or supervising those student surgeons via video monitor while conducting another surgery themselves. This profit-seeking at the expense of patient welfare fits squarely within the problem identified by the Sun’s recent report.
The second root cause which the Sun identified was inadequate hospital staffing – a problem which often leads to patient neglect, lack of proper sanitation, and injuries such as bedsores. As in Nevada, this problem is a common cause of medical injury here in Illinois.
Likewise, flawed hospital oversight, the third root cause identified by the Sun’s report, is a problem here in Illinois, as well. Hospital boards are often made up of prominent community members, business people, or even physicians – competent individuals in their own right who have their own, often laudable, reasons for serving on a hospital board. Unfortunately, what these individuals do not have is experience in managing a hospital, organizing patient care, or identifying and correcting problems. Our top medical malpractice attorneys have often noted that the management and supervision of hospitals is often at fault for medical errors and neglect – the institution and enforcement of simple procedures such as proper handwashing could easily prevent many medical problems, but must come from the top in order to succeed.
The final root cause identified by the Sun’s report, the failure to learn from mistakes, is also common here. As our medical malpractice attorneys have often written, it is difficult to convince a hospital to acknowledge a medical error, let alone affirmatively learn from it. The prevailing medical culture dictates that errors must be hidden, at all costs, in order to prevent lawsuits. As noted by the Sun’s report, however, this culture prevents hospitals from learning from these mistakes, and thereby preventing their repetition.
These systemic causes are, of course, only a part of the medical malpractice picture – each case differs, and has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. That is why, if you or a loved one has been injured during a hospital stay, it is important to consult an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can assist you in determining if you have a claim worth pursuing. A top medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your unique case, determine if the factors identified by the Sun (or other factors) are at play, and help you decide whether to move forward with a legal claim.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury and wrongful death lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.