Category Archives: Medical Malpractice

Study Shows All-Time Low Medical Malpractice Payouts in 2012

Payouts to patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice fell to the lowest on record in 2012, according to consumer rights watchdog group Public Citizen.

The organization recently looked at data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a database used by the federal government to track payouts in medical malpractice cases nationwide.

Here is a look at some trends over the last 10 years, as captured in the report ”No Correlation: Continued Decrease in Medical Malpractice Payments Debunks Theory That Litigation Is to Blame for Soaring Medical Costs”:

  • Malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2012, and the overall number of payouts (9,379) is the lowest on record.
  • Medical malpractice payments have dropped by almost 29 percent, while national health care costs have climbed 58 percent.

As the name of the study suggests, Public Citizen asserts that the numbers challenge the popular notion that high-priced payouts to medical malpractice plaintiffs is a key contributor to rising health care costs.

(Medical Malpractice Q&A)

But what about other aspects of the health care cost spectrum; not just the end game of verdicts and settlements?   Are doctors and other health care providers spending unprecedented amounts on liability and malpractice insurance, thanks in part to the fear of having to defend against the next big medical malpractice verdict? Public Citizen says no, pointing to the fact that medical liability insurance premiums  fell to 0.36 of 1 percent of health care costs, the lowest level in the past decade.

And speaking of medical malpractice, a recent investigation and report by USA Today finds that state medical boards aren’t doing nearly enough to strip the licenses of doctors whose checkered professional histories feature numerous instances of misconduct and treatment errors that have brought harm to patients: Thousands of Doctors Practicing Despite Errors, Misconduct.

Check-Up: Hospital Safety Grades Handed Out

A new report on hospital safety shows that more than a few health care facilities need a second opinion when it comes to safe treatment practices and eliminating preventable medical errors.

The study looked at more than 2,600 hospitals, and of those, 790 came home with an “A”, including the Mayo Clinic, New York Presbyterian, Duke University Hospital, and Bellevue Hospital Center.

But nationwide, 25 health care facilities received a failing grade. And as the Los Angeles Times mentions, the prestigious UCLA Medical Center was one of those hospitals whose report card announced the dreaded “F.”

The study was conducted by the nonprofit group Leapfrog, whose focus is on quality and affordable health care. Read a press release from the group here: Leapfrog Group Announces Updated Hospital Safety Scores

It’s no surprise that preventable medical errors and hazardous treatment environments — such as those outlined in Leapfrog’s report — have a pretty close correlation with medical negligence. And when that kind of negligence leads to injuries to patients or a worsening of a patient’s condition, the result can be a viable medical malpractice lawsuit.

Learn more about what is (and what is not) medical malpractice, and how these cases work, in Nolo’s Medical Malpractice Center.

Unnecessary Stents, Medical Fraud, and a Slow-Smoked Pig

A Baltimore cardiologist’s alleged pattern of unnecessarily inserting stents into patients is the subject of a recent U.S. Senate committee investigation and report. The story shines a spotlight on an emerging and disturbing trend in health care: doctors and hospitals churning out procedures that may or may not be necessary, and drug and medical device manufacturers rewarding those high-volume practices.

Articles in The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun can give you more details about the Senate report and all the garish attention paid to Dr. Mark Midei for inserting Abbott Laboratories stents into patients like he was going for some kind of record.

Those details include 585 stent procedures that weren’t medically necessary, and a celebratory $2,000-plus dinner featuring a slow-smoked pig, with the bill paid by Abbott Labs in order to honor Dr. Midei’s “achievements,” according to allegations. Meanwhile, every single procedure (necessary or not) brought lucrative profits, including Medicare reimbursements.

In non-emergency cases, stents are typically inserted only when an artery is completely or significantly blocked. That’s because the use of stents brings serious health risks — specifically, the increased chance that a patient will suffer blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and internal bleeding. And as the Times article points out, patients who have had stents inserted need to take blood-thinning drugs, and those medications come with their own unique risks.

So it’s not hard to see how inserting a stent when it’s not medically necessary to do so can rise to the level of medical malpractice. Cue the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against Dr. Midei and St. Joseph Medical Center, according to the Times.

Looking for more information on the legal issues behind this developing story? You’ll find dozens of articles and FAQs on medical malpractice cases and lawsuits involving medical devices in Nolo’s Medical Malpractice and Dangerous Products and Drugs sections.