In a July 14 blog, Medical Justice founder and malpractice protection champion Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD, explains why medical malpractice suits don’t help.
“If I touch a hot stove and burn my hand, I learn not to touch a hot stove again. Painful lesson, but lesson learned. How does this make our lives worse? When a person gets burned, whatever the reason, that person will naturally avoid that stimulus in the future. If that person is a doctor, and that stimulus is a frivolous lawsuit, the future behavior will be to avoid that stimulus (the frivolous suit) by ‘protecting themselves’ via defensive medicine.”
Dr. Segal makes a great point about frivolous lawsuits. The resulting defensive medicine has been reported to cost us up to several billion dollars a year.
But what about the lawsuits that aren’t frivolous? Will patients and doctors learn from the mistakes that resulted in real harm to patients? Malpractice lawyer Patrick Malone offers advice in his blog to help people avoid putting themselves in situations that could result in a needless adverse outcome. Malone points out that step one is for patients to get and read their medical records.
I wonder how many problems would be averted if patients made a point to get, read and keep a file of their medical records. For some reason, it just isn’t a part of our culture. I have to admit, I probably keep a better file of records on the work that has been done on my car than I keep on my own medical care. This culture will change. It has to in order to better assure the quality of our medical care.