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New Approaches to Resolving Medical Malpractice Claims

Discussions across the country are looking for better methods for hospitals and clinics to admit mistakes and ensure they are not repeated. When doctors or nurses are careless, sloppy or negligent the odds of surgical injuries increase. In other circumstances, a medical professional might make an honest mistake and feel deep remorse, but may not have an avenue to inform or apologize to the patient.

One example is a wrong site surgery. Dr. David Ring, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School recounted to ProPublica one such occurrence. While the surgeon realized the mistake and fixed it, he provided details about how it happened.

  • A nurse had marked the correct arm, but did not note the exact incision site.
  • That day, surgeons were running behind schedule and staff members were under pressure to move quickly.
  • The nurse who prepped the patient was not in the operating room for the surgery, because they had to move the patient.
  • Then the nursing team changed during the procedure.

Doctors need to be encouraged to admit their mistakes in order for others to learn. Some advocate an approach where physicians and nurses quickly admit errors, investigate how they occurred, apologize and negotiate a settlement proactively.

Faster Resolution Sought by Alternate Models

The University of Michigan health system is at the forefront of enacting just such an approach called the Michigan Claims Management Model, based on “disclosure, apology and offer.” Over the last decade, the system has evolved. The university proactively completes “a peer review to see if there was indeed an error and to learn if anything should be changed in its processes,” if a patient believes a mistake occurred. The change has reduced the number of medical malpractice cases filed.

Oregon is now the first state using the University of Michigan model as a guide in drafting reform legislation that will require mediation. The Oregon Governor convened a panel of doctors and lawyers to talk about medical malpractice and suggest solutions to lower litigation costs and speed the process. An Oregon Senate panel recently provided an initial go-ahead to the new legislation that would set up the new mediation system. The legislation will still need to pass the legislature.

While it might be some time before such a similar process comes to Missouri, alternative approaches that look at how and why mistakes occur along with apologies when mistakes occur could lead to safer medicine.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury caused by a medical mistake, such as a wrong site surgery, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A close review of the facts of your case is necessary to discover how the mistake occurred and whether the negligence or carelessness of a doctor or nurse might have been to blame.