Medical Malpractice Thanks for joining us this morning. Now let’s go to a question from one of our viewers: Dear Gary: I have a question for you and it is really difficult for me to discuss. My mom had to have her gall bladder removed. We met with her doctor and he assured us it would be a routine procedure. Unfortunately, my mom never made it out of surgery as she died on the operating table. I’m still in shock and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what went wrong during the procedure. The surgeon would only tell us he was so sorry and he did all he could do. No one is telling me what happened and it makes me think he may have committed malpractice. What can I do? - Shelly in Clarkston Shelly - I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. This is an extremely difficult time for you so please know you are in our thoughts and prayers. I certainly understand why you have questions. You are told this was a routine procedure and the next thing you know the doctor is coming out to tell you that your mom did not make it. You have every right to know what happened. But let’s first talk about medical malpractice claims in Georgia, and then I’ll give you some suggestions on your potential claim. There has been a lot of talk about frivolous medical malpractice claims being pursued by people just seeking life’s lottery - or jackpot justice. Let me give you some facts - not insurance company propaganda. * According to the Institute of Medicine, between 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die each year due to PREVENTABLE medical errors. * However, only 1 in 8 of these PREVENTABLE medical errors committed in hospitals results in a malpractice claim. (Harvard Medical Practice Study Group, (1990)) * The annual costs to society for medical errors in hospitals is between $17 billion and $29 billion. (Institute of Medicine, To Err Is Human, Building a Safer Health System, 2000) And these are some very telling stats: Only a small number of dangerous doctors commit the most malpractice: * Only 5% of doctors (1 out of 20) are responsible for 54$ of malpractice claim payouts. (National Practitioner Data Bank, Sept. 1, 1990 - Sept. 30, 2002) * Only 8% of doctors (1 out of 12) with 2 or more malpractice claim payouts have been disciplined by their state medical board. (National Practitioner Data Bank, Sept. 1, 1990 - Sept. 30, 2002) * Only 17% of doctors (1 out of 6) who have made 5 or more malpractice claim payouts have been disciplined by their state medical board. (National Practitioner Data Bank, Sept. 1, 1990 - Sept. 30, 2002) So what you have is an industry failing to police itself. Please let me make something very clear. I am a big fan of medical doctors. I have some very good friends that are in this profession. Over the years I have had numerous surgeries - including brain surgery - and I have nothing but the highest praise for these men and women. We need doctors and there do need to be safeguards in place to prevent them from being sued every time a patient is unhappy with their medical treatment or their outcome. But did you know there are already safeguards in place in Georgia? In Georgia, you just can’t file a lawsuit against a doctor like you could any other person. If you feel you are a victim of medical malpractice, you must have another doctor in the same field of medicine as the one that allegedly committed the malpractice swear under oath that the physician or hospital breached a duty of care to you and you were injured as a result. Now think about that for a moment. The medical community is a very tight group of professionals. Can you imagine how difficult it is to get an orthopedic surgeon to swear in an affidavit that another orthopedic surgeon committed malpractice? It is not only difficult, but it is expensive. You have to secure a copy of all of the relevant medical records and pay for an expert to review them. Juror are very sympathetic to physicians and are unlikely to award damages to injured victims. Shelly - the first thing that needs to happen in your claim is for you or your attorney to get a complete copy of your mom’s medical records. Then we have to hire a medical expert to review the records. It is not enough for us to claim your mom’s death should not have happened. We have to prove that her death was the result of the doctor doing something they should not have done or not doing something he should have done. The doctors actions or inactions has to be the proximate cause of her death. Shelly - I know this is a lot of information. The easiest thing to do is just pick up the phone and give me a call to discuss your claim.