A new documentary on HBO underscores the prevalence of medical errors, and the challenges to obtaining justice for those impacted. The expose' chronicles one man's fight to find the answers concerning his mother's 2009 hip surgery which left her with permanent physical and cognitive damage. The man stated that his mother, a 69-year-old woman, lost half of her blood during the surgery. Eight days after the surgery, she slipped into a coma. When she emerged from the coma, she had experienced significant memory loss and physical harm. She had been on blood thinners at the time of the surgery, which may have been a factor in the substantial blood loss. Further, following the surgery, ICU staff did not promptly address her blood pressure, which was at a dangerous level.
In his quest to understand what happened to his mother, he discovered some disturbing facts concerning medical malpractice - both in the rate of which medical errors occur and in the difficulty in obtaining redress when harm occurs.
According to a study by Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind cancer and heart disease. Mistakes by health care professionals account for nearly 250,000 deaths each year. These errors include errors in judgment, inadequate training and prescription errors. Unfortunately, those harmed by medical malpractice may have a difficult time successfully suing doctors and hospitals when things go wrong. The cost of bringing a malpractice action is high, and in states such as California, where damages are capped, it may be an uphill battle to find a lawyer to take your case. Where a case is not a slam dunk, the chances of winning may also be a deterrent. The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that roughly 80-90% of cases where a possible defense exists (not necessarily proven), are dropped, and only about 50% of "strong" cases are successful. Much of this has to do with laws that are in place to protect hospitals and doctors, rather than patients.
One doctor interviewed for the documentary noted that to improve the system, doctors need more accountability and transparency. He further stated, The vast majority of doctors and hospitals and nurses ... are heroes, they're saving lives every day," he said. "But they're human as well, and humans make mistakes. And the question is what do we do when we make those mistakes."
As advocates of patient safety, our California medical malpractice attorneys fight every day to improve conditions at hospitals and reduce the number of people harmed by medical errors and negligence.
If you have questions, or believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by preventable medical errors, please contact the dedicated Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.