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Jim Lewis
| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

How many people die or are injured by medical malpractice and errors every year?  It’s a pertinent question and the answer may surprise and scare you.  The Journal of Patient Safety says that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.  What’s the exact number? Nobody knows for sure. There’s never been an actual count of how many patients experience preventable harm. So we’re left with approximations, which are imperfect in part because of inaccuracies in medical records and the reluctance of some providers to report mistakes.

In stark contrast statistics prove that there has been a 40 percent drop in the number of paid medical malpractice claims and a 29 percent drop in the total amount paid.  Even more surprising is the average that hospitals paid for malpractice in 2003 was just over one percent of their total income.

{Click here for more information on medical malpractice injuries}

These staggering numbers would mean that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America.  Medical malpractice lawyers are constantly fighting an uphill battle against the myth that medical malpractice lawsuits run up the cost of health care.  This is simply not true.  However legislatures continue to put medical malpractice caps in place.  The Virginia medical malpractice cap is, in my opinion as a personal injury attorney having practiced over twenty years in Virginia, completely unfair. It is nothing more than a special favor to the medical system and medical malpractice insurance companies. Ironically, studies have shown that caps do nothing to increase the availability of healthcare or lower the premiums that doctors pay for medical malpractice coverage. The insurance companies just pocket the extra profit.

A patient safety expert wrote, “Perhaps it is time for a national patient bill of rights for hospitalized patients.  All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”  The time to act is now before anyone else falls victim to preventable error. 



One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Eric

    Hi Jim,

    My question is in regards to your statement that medical malpractice lawsuits do not run up the cost of healthcare? Could you explain that in more detail? I would like to better understand where you are coming from. Thank you.


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