Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Make Medical Care Expensive?
Politically it is easier to blame lawyers for the price of health care than it is to raise taxes to pay for it or to limit care. Here is a medical malpractices case I have successfully handled and you can be the judge of whether such lawsuits should be discouraged:
Radiologist blows up Patient’s Colon: In this pre-colonoscopy era case a test showed blood in the patient’s feces and the doctor ordered an x-ray of the patient’s colon. To see the colon better, the procedure was to blow air into the colon. Unfortunately, the radiologist (a doctor who reads X-rays and CT scans and MRIs), using some new machinery hooked it up wrong and blew so much air into the patient’s gut that the colon burst. The patient required immediate surgery resulting in a colostomy (the gut emptied into a bag), followed half a year later by corrective surgery. The radiologist was apparently a good doctor who made a simple mistake with new equipment. Should the patient have been compensated for this nightmare?
Doctor’s Error delays Diagnosis of Colon Cancer: The patient, in the course of a routine physical, had his stool (feces) tested for blood. The test came back from the lab a few days later positive. The doctor or his office should have alerted the patient and had him come in to see if had colon cancer which was the whole point of the stool test. Instead, the doctor and his office dropped the ball. A year later the patient was diagnosed with colon cancer at a more advanced stage. Should the patient have been compensated for his decreased chance of survival?
Doctor’s Error delays Diagnosis of Lung Cancer: The patient, a recently retired school teacher had quit smoking a few years ago. He went to his family doctor for a physical exam. An x-ray showed a small suspicious spot on his lung. The doctor honestly told the patient that he wasn’t an expert at reading the x-ray and would send it out to a radiologist. The radiologist reported back to the doctor that the spot looked like it was probably harmless but that this x-ray should be compared to an earlier one if available to see if the spot had grown recently, or else the patient should be re-x-rayed in 6 months. The doctor knew the patient’s wife socially and called her to say there really wasn’t anything to worry about. Two years later the patient went back for another physical and x-ray and by then the spot was enormously enlarged and proved to be cancer. Because the patient was recently retired as a school teacher, he had had frequent chest x-rays by the school district which were readily available for examination. The examination would have shown that the spot when first discovered was a new spot and should have been biopsied. Should the patient have been compensated for his decreased chance of survival?