There is a startling contradiction that exists within the American healthcare system. While our nation is home to some of the world’s most talented medical professionals, it is also the land of alarming rates of medical misconduct. As attorney, Paul Samakow reveals in a recent article for Communities Digital News, the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that the U.S. medical system fails to provide decent medical care for the average patient.
As a result, Americans don’t even enjoy the type of good health experienced by citizens of other industrialized countries. And worse, “medical malpractice in America’s healthcare system currently ranks as the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer,” says Samakow, “The numbers come from John Hopkins University researchers, who estimate that medical errors cause over 250,000 deaths per year. Heart disease accounts for over 614,000 and cancer causes over 591,000 annual deaths.”
So why is medical malpractice prevalent in a nation as advanced as the United States? Dr. Lawrence Schlachter believes he has the answer. Both a board-certified physician and a medical malpractice attorney, Dr. Schlachter believes that there is a culture, within the medical community, that encourages physicians to avoid accountability. Perhaps, it is the notion that one doesn’t have to be held responsible for his/her medical errors why so many mistakes are made.
On StatNews.com, the author of the recently published Malpractice: A Neurosurgeon Reveals How Our Health-Care System Puts Patients at Risk unveils the findings of a recent study that found that most physicians would provide “only a limited or no apology, limited or no explanation, and limited or no information about the cause” of a delayed diagnosis or delayed response to a patient’s symptoms.
The study, which was published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety last fall noted that the strongest predictors of disclosure were based on whether or not the mistake was a big enough deal to reveal to injured patients. “In reality, the factor that most influences doctors to hide or disclose medical errors should be clear to anyone who has spent much time in the profession,” writes Dr. Schlachter, “The culture of medicine frowns on admitting mistakes, usually on the pretense of fear of malpractice lawsuits.”
Such a revelation is scary, to say the least. Especially considering that Dr. Schlachter has experience on both sides of the fence – the medical and the legal side – his sentiments appear very objective. He reveals that some doctors go to extreme lengths to hide their medical errors. He cites a story revealed to him by a patient who had to endure a routine spinal fusion procedure that resulted in a screw being placed in her spinal canal “far from where it should have been and a tiny distance from damaging her spinal cord.”
What was the surgeon’s excuse for the unthinkable blunder? He claimed that “the screw migrated”. “Buffalo and geese migrate,” responds Dr. Schlachter, “Medical screws placed properly and carefully into bone do not.” He goes on to state one of the most obvious and sad revelations about the medical industry. Doctors are generally trusted by patients who depend on them to overcome severe illnesses and injuries. When that trust is betrayed, it shows that a doctor’s reputation supersedes a patient’s safety.
This is not only morally wrong, but it results in unnecessary deaths. As mentioned earlier, medical errors account for more than 250,000 deaths in the United States per year. This, it should go without saying, is entirely unacceptable.
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