Hospital Acquired Infections:
The cases are extremely difficult unless the Plaintiff or someone on behalf of the Plaintiff can point to a specific breach of sanitary care on the part of one or more health care providers. The fact that the hospital staff and attending doctors don’t usually comply 100% with handwashing rules usually won’t cut it. The fact that horrible infections can occur in even the world’s top hospitals helps the defense in these cases.
Bad Results from Treatments or Tests That Weren’t Necessary:
We have been oversold on the idea that the earlier cancer is detected the better off we are and that we should do everything we can to detect cancer early. For most cancer of certain types, early detection IS terribly important. Most colon and cervical cancers fit this advice. Ditto for melanomas, the most serious of the several skin cancers. Unfortunately, there are some cancers for which the treatment may be worse than leaving them along. Routine screening for prostate cancer is an area of much debate. It appears that THE LARGE MAJORITY OF prostate cancers if left alone, will do no harm, and treating them risks impotence and incontinence. However, SOME prostate cancers, if not treated will metastasize to the bones and cause a painful death. Likewise, there is debate as to whether small ductal in situ carcinomas of the breast should be aggressively treated. CT scans do impose a large dose of radiation on the body. There is debate as to how much cancer risk CT scans create. A plan of medical treatment or diagnosis that involves multiple CT scans may carry its own risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, many factors push doctors to order more, rather than less treatment and diagnosis. 1) Doctors are often enthusiastic about new technologies, perhaps, too uncritically. 2) As a general rule doctor get sued for not ordering enough treatment or diagnosis. It is hard to sue a doctor for ordering too much in the way of diagnostic procedures because the harm suffered by the patient will likely be small or hard to prove, especially compared to the dramatic downside of failing to timely cancer. 3) Doctors don’t get adequately paid for taking the time to educate patients on all of the benefits and risks of a diagnostic procedure. 4) Doctors want to avoid seeing one of their patients die of cancer; it is psychologically easier for doctors to order more tests than to risk feeling guilty about not catching cancer in time.
Unless there is a very bad, provable result from an unnecessary test or treatment, usually there is no worthwhile malpractice claim. Patients are largely left to their own in avoiding unnecessary tests and treatments. However, some doctors will discuss candidly their reservations about certain tests or treatments if asked, “Doctor, if your mother (wife) was in my situation what would you suggest?”