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Who Should Pay for Medical Errors? An Analysis

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 1-Dec-2017

We go to the doctor or the hospital for one reason: We are sick or injured, and we want to get better. It’s a reasonable expectation, but it doesn’t always happen that way; in fact, medical error is now the third leading cause of death in America.

When a doctor, hospital or other medical professional commits a medical error that causes the patient further harm, it stands to reason that the facility should pay for the error. However, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune examines some of the factors that cloud this issue, causing patients to pay for these mistakes more often than they should.

Inconsistent Policies

Some hospitals have a policy in place that if they make a mistake in providing care that makes the patient worse, the follow-up care is free. However, not every facility has this policy, and unfortunately, the criteria for deciding on these policies are usually more financial than ethical. Medical facilities typically weigh the risk of malpractice lawsuits against the cost of transparency when making these policies. The facilities that willingly offer free care have determined transparency is less costly; those that do not are usually gambling that any resulting lawsuits will cost them less in the long run.

The Burden of Proof

If a medical error occurs, the burden of proof regarding negligence falls to the patient. If the medical staff warn the patient of the risks of a certain procedure and/or are quick to notify the patient and family if something goes wrong, the hospital may try to claim it did all it reasonably could, or state that the error was unavoidable—making it more difficult to prove negligence or malpractice. In such cases, patients are often left footing the bill.

The upshot is that if you or a loved one experiences a medical error, you have a theoretical or ethical right to compensation—but getting that compensation doesn’t happen automatically. The murkiness of this issue underscores that you need an experienced Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorney in your corner to help ensure you receive the settlement to which you are
Categories: Medical Malpractice
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