Medical Errors and Malpractice

Patient safety is healthcare’s ultimate win-win:

  • Patients suffer from fewer adverse events and deaths, and consequently get better care. 
  • Clinicians and hospitals experience fewer malpractice claims and can devote all of their attention to practicing medicine. Moreover, research has shown that healthcare professionals may suffer from “second victim syndrome” which occurs when they commit an error and “are traumatized by the event manifesting psychological (shame, guilt, anxiety, grief, and depression), cognitive (compassion dissatisfaction, burnout, secondary traumatic stress), and/or physical reactions that have a personal negative impact.”

Our current healthcare system is very costly. As Charles Andel (Loyola University Medical Center) et. al. write in their article, “The economics of health care quality and medical errors” – “Whatever the measure, poor quality is costing payers and society a great deal.”

In an article published in Health Affairs, Michelle M. Mello (Professor of Law and Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health) and her colleagues concluded that our medical liability system costs an estimated $55.6 billion in 2008 dollars, or 2.4 percent of total health care spending.

Moreover, no one really wins from malpractice litigation – no amount of damages money can erase an adverse event or death for patients and their families; and clinicians and others involved in the provision of healthcare cannot recover the time spent in litigation even if successful in court.

As the title of the book by J. Kelley Avery, M.D. so aptly puts it, “Let the record show: Medical malpractice, the lawsuit nobody wins.”

The only way to win is to improve patient safety – to avoid adverse events and death.