How do Hospitals Cover Up Medical Malpractice?

Providing life-saving medical services to patients is considered a noble profession. Whether a doctor, a nurse, hospital support, a dentist and a hospital, putting the patient first should be considered a calling.

If there is a breach of any kind, it may be considered medical malpractice. In 1999, the prestigious Institute of Medicine reported in To Err is Human that there are as many as 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths a year from avoidable medical errors and most of them occur in hospitals.  

The BMJ, a British medical journal concluded in 2016 that medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. And though Americans spent more per capita on medical care than any other industrialized nation, we come in 37th in health outcomes among industrialized countries.

Some have argued that the medical malpractice is one of the reasons medicine is so expensive. Doctors practice defensive medicine such as ordering unnecessary tests, curtailing complicated procedures or rejecting patients they perceived as litigious.

Estimates are that the costs associated with medical malpractice add only 2% to 10% to the cost of medicine.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can result from the actions of the doctor, the nurse, the therapist, even the hospital can be liable for the actions of its employees or its independent contractors, if that is how they are hired.

Connecticut hospitals had a record number of hospital errors in 2013, reports the state Department of Public Health, and they occurred at some of the state’s largest hospitals.

There are certain standards that hospitals must adhere to such as the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and a violation of those standards may add to the claim of medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice can result from several actions:

*Failure to Treat – This may include a misdiagnosis or a delay in treatment. Perhaps the patient was not given much-needed medication when it was needed or the doctor did not follow-up with care or neglected to refer the patient to a specialist.

* Negligence – Is an omission in care, in follow-up treatment, or in a timely attendance to a patient. Negligence can also result when a doctor is not fully trained on a piece of medical equipment, surgical technique, or an area of medicine that he is practicing.

*No Informed Consent – The doctor has a duty to fully inform the patient on what the treatment will entail and especially the potential for dangers. The patient then can make an informed decision about a treatment option or surgical operation.

*Surgical Error – These are the nightmare stories one hears about. A wrong limb is amputated, organs are injured during surgery, or someone leaves instruments inside a patient necessitating another surgery.

It has been reported that some doctors cover their tracks by altering medical records. Patients have reported that their records have gone missing, presuming they’ve been destroyed.

Patients who have experienced “adverse events” often speak out publicly that they had not been informed by their doctor about the worst-case scenario. If the worst case happens, the doctor may decide he no longer wants to treat that patient. 

It’s always better for a doctor to admit a mistake and apologize than cut and run, but that rarely happens.

In some cases, a doctor was not informed about the worst outcomes. If he has been trained by a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company, that sales pitch may not include the worst examples of adverse events. And often doctors are anxious only to hear the upside so they can offer a product or a drug, especially if it is potentially lucrative to their practice.

Public Citizen reported in 2002 that in Florida, many medical errors were committed by the same small percentage of doctors, placing a burden on hospitals to more closely monitor the activities of troublesome doctors.

Connecticut Law on Medical Malpractice

The injured has a two-year statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit, or two years from when the victim should have reasonably discovered the injury.

Connecticut has no cap on damages that a victim of medical malpractice can receive. However, the state does have a modified comparative negligence rule meaning if you share in a proportion of blame for the incident your award or settlement will be reduced by a similar amount.

Apex Law can help you with your medical malpractice claim by pursuing economic, noneconomic and in some cases, punitive damages to help ensure that those who are medically negligent are held fully accountable. Contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Do Hospitals Cover Up Their Medical Malpractice Incidents?

As shocking as it can be to hear, there is no doubt that even the best-trained doctors make medical mistakes. In fact, medical mistakes are so common that they are now a leading cause of death in the United States, with only cancer and heart disease killing more Americans.

Despite this fact, doctors and the hospitals for which they don’t want to talk about them. Indeed, there are allegations that hospitals cover up acts of medical malpractice, and that doctors aren’t eager to talk about mistakes made by themselves or their colleagues.

Disclosing Errors to Patients

Doctors who commit acts of malpractice or medical errors have an ethical duty to reveal those errors to patients. But what about the errors made by other doctors? According to an article in ProPublica, while there is consensus that medical professionals should come clean when they knowingly make an error, there has been less discussion about what’s to be done should a colleague make an error.

There are a multitude of reasons why a doctor may be hesitant to report an error made by another medical professional. A New England Journal of Medicine report listed the following as potential reasons why doctors may stay mum about others’ errors:

  • Doctors depend on other doctors for business and patient referrals – reporting another doctor’s medical error could have a devastating effect on the original doctors likeability amongst their peers, thereby affecting business success;
  • Reporting medical errors can be time consuming, especially if the facts of the case are unknown or unclear;
  • Cultural or seniority issues may be a deterrent; and
  • Doctors may fear becoming entangled in medical malpractice claims themselves.

Hospitals Hide Errors, Too

It’s not just doctors who may be hesitant about disclosing medical errors, either their own or others’; hospitals have hidden errors in the past, too. To be sure, an article published in NY Daily News states that hospital records at city-run hospitals faked records in order to cover up medical errors. The article also reports that the cover ups were participated in by nearly everyone employed, including doctors, nurses, and hospital staff.

And yet another article, this one published by STAT, reports that “Medical culture encourages doctors to avoid admitting mistakes.” The report reads that while it is often fear of a medical malpractice suit that doctors claim is the reason for not reporting an error, “what’s really at risk are doctors’ egos and the preservation of a system that lets physicians avoid accountability…”

Your Duty as a Patient

As a patient in the United States, whether in Connecticut or elsewhere, the chances of being a victim of medical malpractice are very real. And while doctors are certainly tasked with a high duty of care, you also have a duty as a patient to do your homework, research and investigate a hospital and a doctor before seeking care, and ask plenty of questions. If you need serious treatment or a major procedure performed, look up the doctor and the hospital first – have there been complaints filed in the past? Is there a record of malpractice?

Being engaged as a patient can also help to prevent errors, particularly as a lack of communication is one of the biggest predictors of medical mistakes.

Finally, follow up. If something doesn’t feel right or you believe that an error has occurred, inquire about it. If necessary, do not hesitate to contact a medical malpractice attorney who can assess your case, and guide you in bringing forth a suit if appropriate.

Our Legal Team Is Here for You

At the offices of the Apex Law Firm, LLC, we believe that all patients should be treated with a high level of care. When the duty owed to a patient is breached and harm results, the physician responsible or hospital where the malpractice occurred should be held liable.

For a free consultation with our legal team where we will review the facts of your case and provide you with sound legal advice, please contact our team at (860) 900-0900, or by email using the intake form on our website, today. Our offices are in Hartford County, but we are also able to travel to your location when needed.

Medical Malpractice Facts

The consequences of medical errors and malpractice can often have a devastating impact on the lives of patients and their families. Medical errors can affect healthy persons undergoing routine treatment, persons undergoing emergency care, and those suffering life threatening and chronic illnesses. When the patient suspects a medical error occurred, it is often appropriate to consult an experienced attorney who can help counsel whether it is reasonable and possible to consider a claim for health care malpractice.

Typical examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis;
  • Surgical errors or anesthesia errors;
  • Medication or prescription errors;
  • Errors involving prenatal care and childbirth; and
  • Errors involving care and custody during treatment in rehabilitation and care facilities.

An attorney or medical/legal professional investigating with care and attention to medical detail can assist in differentiating between the normal risks and consequences of illness and treatment, and errors for which the health care provider can be held legally responsible through the court system.

To pursue a law case in Connecticut, the patient must prove, as required by Connecticut statute 52-184c(a), the medical provider breached the legal “standard of care” of medical treatment that is recognized as “acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” This means the patient must consult a health care provider to obtain an opinion as to whether the care provided was acceptable. Patients are not entitled to perfect care. They are only entitled to reasonable or standard care. In fact, before a lawsuit for medical malpractice can be filed, Connecticut law requires the patient, under most circumstances, to obtain an opinion from a medical provider in the field of medicine involved that a reasonable inquiry was conducted by the patient and that the patient had a good faith belief that medical negligence occurred. This Connecticut statute 52-190a(a) attempts to protect medical providers from unwarranted lawsuits.  However, the investigation that is required before a lawsuit need not be conclusive. The patient’s attorney is entitled to conduct an investigation during a lawsuit to learn what actually occurred by meeting with witnesses, and relying on court process to allow production of records, sworn written answers to interrogatories, and testimony under oath at a deposition, trial or hearing. The court system provides a powerful tool to enable the patient to discover the truth of what occurred.

In addition, the patient must prove the medical error was the legal or proximate cause of the medical outcome. This is often the most contested issue in a medical case. For example, in a case involving a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a chronic and progressive disease, such as heart disease or cancer, the patient must prove through medical evidence that the patient lost an opportunity for a successful medical treatment. This was the subject of the famous Connecticut Supreme court opinion, Boone v. William Backus Hospital, 272 Conn. 551 (2005), involving a tragic death of a young child who was treated for an ear ache. Therefore, even if the patient can prove that a medical mistake occurred, and these errors are extremely upsetting to the patient or the patient’s family involved in a medical crisis, it is necessary, before undertaking a medical case, to be certain the patient can prove that the mistake or error changed the outcome of treatment. Nevertheless, despite all the limitations and obstacles the plaintiff faces seeking to recover compensation for medical fault, there are many compelling examples for law cases. These cases are often among the only means available for the patient to attempt to move forward.

Contact the Knowledgeable Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorneys at The APEX Law Firm

If you or someone you love has been injured through medical negligence or have questions about whether you have a viable case, call our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at The APEX Law Firm. Your consultation is free and there is never an obligation. In Hartford County call (860) 900-0900 or visit our online contact form.

Do you need legal assistance for medical device injuries?

Severe injuries caused by dangerous drugs and defective medical devices are on the rise and taking a serious toll on patients nationwide. Although the FDA and other government authorities take occasional action, the sheer amount of such incidents cannot be kept under control. The paradox is that in many cases these injuries are caused by devices or drugs which were previously approved by the FDA.  This means that patients could be the ultimate test for the safety of these products. Companies often promote “blockbuster” drugs or medical devices without fully exposing the extent of their hazard potential. One such case was linked to the usage of the blood thinner Pradaxa, used to prevent strokes in patients.  This drug, approved by the FDA, is believed to have been the cause of more than 1,400 deaths in 2013 alone. In many cases, medical devices approved by the FDA have caused more harm than good, leading to more surgeries than originally required for the patient, sometimes going on for years.  Abdominal and vaginal meshes are good examples.

Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly putting consumers at risk by persuading physicians to prescribe the unsafe drugs. Often times, the pharmaceutical companies know that a drug is not safe, but the profit they make from the sale of the product far outweighs the potential penalties they may face if sued.  The FDA approval process is a matter of deep concern as more and more drugs which were once considered safe become disqualified for usage.

Such ambiguities make medical injury cases more complex for patients. It is therefore important for patients harmed by these products to talk with a competent medical malpractice lawyer who has a proven track record for handling such cases.

Another example is the drug Benicar.  The FDA declared the drug did not cause cardio-vascular risks in diabetic patients so it could safely be prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes in adults. It was later found that Benicar triggered intestinal problems, causing severe degeneration to the intestine which caused to chronic diarrhoea. These details are often not made available to the patients, so a medical malpractice lawyer plays a vital role. The lawyer must investigate and prove that a common device was faulty or that a drug had known undisclosed side effects at the time of distribution and that the harm caused was a result of its use. For this reason it is very important to get a lawyer who can understand the complexities to properly evaluate the case.