Several years ago, following the deposition of a plastic surgeon whom I had hired as an expert, the doctor and I visited alone in his office. He had just testified that his former roommate in medical school had acted beneath the standard of care when he left gauze in a patient’s groin following thigh reduction surgery. Perhaps it was that particular circumstance which left the doctor feeling guilty, but out-of-the-blue the doctor looked at me and said, “Now will you please go tell all of your trial lawyer brothers and sisters that we can police ourselves?”
I have thought a great deal about his comment over the years. It perfectly illustrates the notion that many healthcare providers have of lawyers that take on medical malpractice cases. They view us as self-appointed malpractice police; just watching and waiting to pounce on mistakes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would much prefer to never hear of another case of medical negligence for as long as I live.
Most healthcare professionals have no idea what is like to hear hundreds, if not a thousand, stories a year from people who think, rightly or wrongly, that they have suffered harm as a direct result of medical negligence. Many of the stories are heart breaking because, as an experienced attorney, I know that an expert would likely conclude that they had been the victim of substandard care which indeed caused their harm. The problem is that the harm, while bad, is not nearly bad enough to justify the enormous amount of time and expense an attorney would be required to invest in order to prove the negligence and hold the responsible healthcare provider accountable.
The truth of medical malpractice is that the vast majority of cases NEVER see the light of day; they do not result in a claim or a demand of any kind and certainly not a lawsuit. The victim just suffers. The legal hurdles are sufficiently high so that most failures on the part of healthcare professionals are just absorbed by the healthcare system itself and fall by the wayside. Sadly, those few claims that ultimately result in a lawsuit are simply the ones that have the most tragic outcomes; massive monetary damages, permanent impairment or death.
Trial lawyers are hardly policing the medical profession. We just handle the worst of the worst cases in an effort to bring some measure of accountability, not as to the medical profession as a whole, but merely as to the person or entity that acted beneath the standard of care and caused such horrible harm to our clients. If that is the only thing that keeps the healthcare profession in line so that we are all safer…I can live with that.
Some of the medical malpractice issues we have faced include:
- Post-operative overdose of NSAID (common pain reliever) leading to gastric bleed and brain damage
- Failure to diagnose colon cancer
- Failure to recognize and treat esophageal perforation following throat surgery
- IV administered to wrong patient
- Failure to recognize fracture of the second metatarsal in the foot leading to permanent impairment
- Hospital staff’s failure to administer life-saving insulin in accordance with ER Physician’s instructions leading to death
- Improper episiotomy and failure to appropriately repair leading to permanent fecal incontinence requiring reconstructed rectum
- Improper surgical repair of vaginal prolapse
- Improper construction of anastomosis during bowel surgery
- Failure to timely diagnose sigmoid volvulus
- Overmedication and understaffing leading to hospital fall and death
- Nursing failure to administer STAT, Vitamin K and plasma to patient with super-elevated INR leading to hemorrhage and death
- Failure to remove gauze during cosmetic surgery leading to permanent muscle damage
- Pressure ulcer (bedsore) leading to death of elderly patient in hospital
- Failure to advise patient of abnormal PAP smear
- Improper transfer of elderly patient leading to hip fracture
- Failure to appropriately shield an eye during laser surgery to the face
- Failure to recognize signs and symptoms of stroke leading to Locked-In Syndrome and death
- Failure to properly manage high-risk pregnant patient in third trimester with aortic dissection leading to rupture and death of mother and brain-damaged child
- Failure to manage amniotic embolism leading to maternal death
The Mulkey Law Firm provides free no obligation consultations regarding potential medical malpractice cases in Arkansas, seven days a week and evenings: 479-936-4384