From the perspective of medical doctors, the current model of medical malpractice is not sustainable. Medical malpractice claims are rising. This current trend leads to higher costs for medical practitioners in attorney fees and insurance, contributes to the stress of the practice of medicine, and sometimes dissuades the best and brightest doctors from entering higher risk fields of medicine such as Obstetrics-Gynecology. The potential of entering a once highly profitable profession can be overshadowed by risks, costs, and increased stress these malpractice suits place on the doctor, to the detriment of the practice of medicine, the practitioners, and the patients alike.
The process for determining the legitimacy of a malpractice claim is similar in most places. A plaintiff will typically file a medical malpractice claim with a state board when there is cause to believe that a doctor has neglected his or her duty to a patient. Malpractice claims may be filed by the patient or by relatives of the patient when the patient is deceased, a minor, or incapable of filing on their own behalf. Next, a panel of doctors who are experts in the same field of medicine as the defendant will be formed. This medical review panel will then study the evidence and facts relating to the case in order to determine whether the doctor breached the standard of care in regards to the patient.
For a plaintiff to successfully establish that malpractice has been committed, the medical review panel and/or a court of law must decipher whether the standard of care has been breached. The standard of care is a complex rule, composed of current professional ethics, established methods of practice, state laws regulating practice, and individual opinion. To have a reasonable chance of establishing the standard of care has been breached, experts in the same field of medicine with similar background, knowledge, and skills should testify that they, given the same circumstances and facts as presented in the case, would have acted differently than the defendant.
In addition to proving that other medical practitioners would have chosen a different course of action than the defendant in the case at hand, the plaintiff also must show that the prescribed course of action is what led to the injury, suffering or damage caused to the plaintiff. In this way, simply establishing that the standard of care was breached is not enough to find a doctor guilty of malpractice; the breach must also be responsible for the damage.
Because the process and requirements of establishing medical malpractice is not widely known to the general public, millions of unnecessary, superfluous claims are filed each year, causing stress to doctors and insurance costs to rise. Unknowingly, the filers of these claims cause undue pressure on an already overextended justice system. Unfortunately, the ironic outcome of these unnecessary claims is an impaired medical system and less than optimal patient care. In order to preserve the efficiency of the practice, medical malpractice claims should be thoroughly investigated and researched by the patient, patient relatives, and plaintiff’s lawyers before a claim is ever filed with the state. Only those cases in which the standard of care has likely been breached should be considered for review by a medical panel.
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