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Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death

Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States and are responsible for the deaths of more than 400,000 people each year. That is according to the Journal of Patient Safety (September 2013 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 122-128).

Even with those statistics, there are those within the healthcare industry and in the legislature that still talk of those who bring so-called “frivolous lawsuits”. The whole idea makes Kay Van Wey, who has been practicing law with a focus on medical malpractice, grit her teeth. Van Wey’s specialty is representing those who have been injured or lost their lives due to medical errors, pharmaceuticals or medical devices.

On average, medical malpractice lawsuits will take between two and three years and are both expensive and extremely technical if they are to be effective. It’s a risky investment of time and money for something that ends up with the medical industry winning far more often than patients and their loved ones do.

Of course, Van Wey will readily admit that most doctors and healthcare professionals do very good work and that modern medicine does save countless lives. It is also true, however, that medical errors kill an alarming number of Americans every year and limiting settlements that patients and their families can collect for those errors.

The leading reason for errors in this area is because of so-called “miscommunication.” In one such case that Van Wey is representing involving a man 27-years-old who is now dying from an overdose of injected epinephrine that was 100 times what he was supposed to have received – all because of a miscalculation.

The reason for these medical errors, according to the author of the same article that cited the number of patient deaths each year due to malpractice is because of medical providers being expected to give care less than ideal conditions. They face crises of reduced staff; a shortage of physicians and such challenges can lead to medical errors due to staff either being fatigued or even in some cases, burnt out.

During the 1990’s, physicians were leaving the profession citing that they were being driven out because of frivolous lawsuits. The demand for tort reform is what put award caps in place in many states. Because the tort reforms put such caps in place, Van Wey believes that the healthcare industry is far less accountable than in the past. Such lack of accountability has contributed to the number of errors today.

“There was in my view and in the view of others no proof to support the claim that doctors were hanging up their stethoscopes because their malpractice insurance was so high,” says Van Wey. “In Texas the claim was that doctors were going to start leaving the state if voters didn’t pass this into serious measures.”

While there are exceptions and some variations from state to state about how much a patient or their family may collect in a malpractice lawsuit, the amount is limited on average to $250,000. For cases that involve long term care for the rest of the life of a patient, for example, that is only a fraction of what may be needed.

The end result is that while some patients may be aware of such reforms, they are unaware of just how limited their rights are as a result of the caps being put into place. For many patients who find that they have suffered as a result of medical malpractice, even if their claim is meritorious, it is not pursued. What this does is it leaves the accountability by the healthcare industry to be lacking and much of the burden and expense left on patients.

It’s common sense to most people that when a doctor, hospital or other medical provider fails to meet the “standard of care,” that they should be held accountable. This so-called “standard of care” is what every provider should strive to do under every circumstance in order to insure the well-being of the patient and their families so that no one has to suffer needlessly.

At Bottar and Leone, we have been fighting for the rights of patients and their loved ones for more than 30 years. If you suspect that you, your child, or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Bottar Leone, PLLC, today. We will schedule a confidential meeting with you to inform you of your rights and the possibility of compensation for any medical expenses or medical bills, as well as loss of income, pain and suffering, or the tragedy of wrongful death.

You may contact us by telephone at (315) 313-6809, (888) 979-1689, or by email at info@bottarlaw.com.