- Education and Science
Medicine - The Silent Killer (What is Medical Malpractice)
The Shocking Truth About Medical Errors
The Silent Killer - Medicine
If you were asked to name the biggest threats to our safety in America you might respond with “terrorism”, “guns” or even “illegal drugs”. You would be correct that those three pose a risk to American lives, but you might also be surprised to find that there is an even bigger killer lurking in the shadows – medical errors. While it is extremely difficult to accurately determine the exact number of deaths attributable to medical errors, the statistics are as high as 200,000 people a year or more – that’s about 400 jumbo jets full of people dying each year from medical errors. Just to put that in perspective, the number of people that died in the terrorist attack in 2001 was about 3,000 and the number of deaths attributable to guns and illegal drugs combined is around 50,000. Experts have called this an epidemic, yet we rarely hear anyone talking about it.
Why isn't anyone screaming and yelling about this?
One reason we don’t hear the outcry over medical errors is also why it’s so hard to accurately account for the number of deaths – doctors don’t want to admit they made a mistake. Why are doctors so reluctant to admit they made a mistake? After all, to err is human right? Doctors may fear that their license will be suspended or that they will be stripped of it altogether. They also fear monetary awards for their negligence that cut into their pocket books. On a more personal level, they may simply fear the stigma attached to making a mistake. After all, doctors are in the business of saving lives, not taking lives. The reality however, is that doctors DO make mistakes – and frequently those mistakes were preventable. Regardless of the reason, the American public is paying the consequences – both in lives and in dollars. One recent study found that the United States spends over $280 billion dollars a year on deaths due to medical mistakes. Another study actually found that figure to be closer to $580 billion dollars. Again, let’s put that figure in perspective. The 2009 Department of Education budget was approximately $160 billion dollars. That means that we are spending considerably more money on medical errors in this country than we are spending on education. Medical errors that could have been, and should have been, prevented.
What can I do if I think I have been the victim of medical malpractice?
Medical negligence is an extremely complicated area of the law. Negligence, in general can be found if the following four elements are ALL present: (1) a duty of care was owed by the physician; (2) the physician violated the applicable standard of care; (3) the person suffered a compensable injury; and (4) the injury was caused in fact and proximately caused by the substandard conduct. The burden of proving these elements is on the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit. Not only is the law itself complicated, but obtaining the evidence necessary to prove all four elements can be painstakingly difficult. If you believe that you, or a loved one, have been the victim of a medical error, seek legal advice immediately as most negligence claims have a time frame within which you must file your claim. .