Myths of Medical Malpractice

I wanted to share a very good article that reveals some truths about medical malpractice in our country.   It might be hoped that articles debunking the common myths about medical malpractice and “tort-reform” legislation would not still be necessary, but false beliefs have a tenacity that is sometimes hard to explain.  Maybe it’s just that people tend to believe untrue things when the belief in those false things serves some other conscious or unconscious purpose.  Nonetheless, belief in fairy tales is no basis for making laws that affect all of us when we visit a hospital or doctor’s office.

This article is important not just because it shows the falsity of these myths, but because of who wrote it and who published it.   A physician and a professor collaborated to write an article entitled Five Myths of Medical Malpractice.  In the article, the authors examine certain false beliefs – including the belief that the civil jury trial system delivers unusually high verdicts, and the belief that physicians move to states with damage caps (caps on the amount of money a person can receive in a malpractice case).  These and a few other common falsehoods are exposed in detail and with plenty of supporting evidence.

It is also revealing that the journal Chest published this article This is a peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.   My hope is that the physician-readers will study this article with an open mind and begin to at least wonder whether the whole “tort-reform” movement is simply a manufactured “crisis” that may serve insurance companies needs, but does nothing to help physicians and, more importantly, does nothing to make patients safer.

Lawsuits or Medical Errors: What’s The Real Problem

Medical Malpractice Payments Fall       Many special interests want to close the courthouse doors to Georgia citizens who suffer terrible injuries or death because of the negligence of healthcare personnel.  The special interests complain about "frivolous lawsuits" and the alleged "crisis" of medical malpractice lawsuits.  When you peek behind the surface, however, the truth is that we are suffering from a problem with people being killed or injured by medical errors rather than a problem with lawsuits.  For example, as this article by Chelsey Ledue shows, the number of payments related to malpractice claims fell in 2009, and the amount paid is at its lowest level since 1992.

The Real Problem:  Failure to Protect Patients    In 1999, the Institute of Medicine found that 44,000-98,000 people die every year due to preventable medical errors!  In 2004, the problem was worse, and according to the report by Health Grades, medical errors would be ranked as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.   And in 2009, it is estimated by the Hearst Newspapers that approximately 200,000 people would die due to medical errors and hospital infections!  These are frightening statistics that don’t  get the attention they deserve.  

    Please take a moment to review the report by Public Citizen that shows the real problem is too many Americans die needlessly from medical errors.  Thus, we should focus on keeping patients safe and holding hospitals and medical personnel accountable when they needlessly harm patients.  The right to trial by jury is essential to hold wrongdoers accountable.  We should not allow special interests groups to take away this right.   

Medical Malpractice Caps in Georgia: Taking Away the Power of Georgia’s Juries

Georgia’s Legislature and Limits on Juries’ Power

     In 2005, the Georgia legislature placed "caps" on the amount of non-economic damages that an injured Georgia citizen could obtain from juries in medical malpractice cases.  In some cases, that limit was as low as $350,000.  This law had the effect of taking power away from jurors in Georgia and giving the power to the special interests that like nothing less than ordinary citizens getting a fair day in court at the hands of 12 jurors.  

Mrs. Nestlehutt’s Injuries and Her Challenge of the Caps

   Mrs. Betty Nestlehutt, age 71, worked in a real estate business with her husband, and she sought some help from a plastic surgeon, who recommended a facelift and a laser resurfacing.  These procedures being performed together posed the risk of imparing the blood supply to the face.  Nonetheless, the procedures were performed and Mrs. Nestlehutt suffered impaired blood supply to her face and was left with large gaping wounds on her face.  The video below shows the damages to Mrs. Nestlehutt.

   The video below shows these damages and illustrates why the legislature’s arbitrary "one-size-fits-all" approach is manifestly unfair to people like Mrs. Nestlehutt.


WE THE PEOPLE from Georgia Justice on Vimeo.