Host 1: Welcome back to INSight, we are joined now by attorney Dave Farnbaugh and attorney and doctor Greg Kauffman. They are from the Sweeney Law Firm and we are talking about medical malpractice and medical errors and they’re causing a lot of issues. Not just issues, they’re causing a lot of deaths in the United States, probably more than people realize. Yes?
Dave: Yes. Charity, there are some pretty alarming statistics out there about what’s a health problem in the United States. Statistically there are a numbers of people in the United States each year that are injured as a result of medical errors or medical malpractice. They say anywhere from 40,000 to 98,000 people a year are killed as a result of medical malpractice. There was a recent study that was done that showed only 1 in 4 patients were told of an abnormal test result by their doctor. There are a lot of medical errors that cause harm and there’s a lot of things that can be done by patients to protect themselves from being a victim of medical malpractice.
Host 1: Do you think that people are not doing anything when they are a victim of medical malpractice because they don’t realize they were a victim of medical malpractice or because they think that it’s too expensive to proceed with a medical malpractice case?
Greg: Well I think that both factors are operative. I think a lot of times, individuals and families don’t know what’s happened. I’ve seen many many cases in my career where people for example have a child whose brain damaged. Sometimes these people are told for years by doctors who see the child that there was some kind of problem with an infection during the pregnancy or maybe it’s an inherited disorder or something like that. There really is great reluctance on the part of doctors to inform families about mistakes, so a lot of times they just don’t know and a lot of times people don’t know what can really be done about it. They’re concerned about the cost of taking action so it’s a multi-factorial kind of problem.
Host 2: Now if someone has been or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, obviously the last step would be to come to an attorney and handle that. But what are some steps that you can take to be proactive so that perhaps this doesn’t happen in the first place?
Dave: Well there are a number of things I think that can be done. In fact, there is a wonderful book if you come to our website that was written by an attorney in Washington D.C. that lays out nine steps that people can take on their own to prevent one from being a victim of medical malpractice. One of the most important things that you can do is a very simple thing is to get a copy of your own medical records and read them. A lot of times you are going to learn things that are in your medical records. A lot of people are under the misconception that only doctors can understand medical records. It’s really not that way. There are probably some things that are in your medical records that would surprise you. One of the things you can learn by getting your own medical records is how good of a listener your doctor is. One of the key things is to find a physician whose a good listener and is willing to communicate with other physicians that they refer your care to. Because that’s one of the major causes of medical malpractice events is when health care providers don’t talk to other health care providers. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing so test results are put into your chart but the doctor never looks at it or a referral is not made with regard to an abnormal test finding and then later on it’s discovered but it’s too late to do anything about it. So the most important thing that you can do is be proactive, get a copy of your medical records, read them, get a second opinion, not just with the regard on the decision to have surgery, a lot of people will only get a second opinion if a surgery is recommended. At every major cross road where you face an important medical decision, you should get a second opinion, or a third opinion. Doctors will frequently disagree about what the diagnosis is and what the proper course of action is.
Greg: Another thing that I think people can do to help protect themselves in the medical system is to be their own advocates. Make sure that your doctor is listening; make sure the doctor understands the problems that you’re having. I think it’s very helpful if a family member, or if no family member is available a friend who would go with the patient to the doctor or spend time with the patient in the hospital and take note of what’s going on and sort of ask questions on behalf of the patient I think that’s very important.
Dave: I think once again to throw another statistic at viewers, which I think is very interesting, they’ve done studies on how many people actually do something when they are a victim of medical malpractice and the statistics show that only 1 in 8 people that are the victim of medical malpractice ever even assert a legal claim. The reason for that I think, after having done these cases for a long time Greg and I, a lot of people are concerned that taking action to pursue a medical malpractice case is something that can be very costly on their part and it doesn’t cost anything. Lawyers who handle these types of cases generally take these cases on a percentage fee basis which means we only charge a fee if we make a recoveries. Most offices that do these kinds of cases finance the litigation. We pay for the expert witnesses, we pay to get the medical records, so there’s really no out of pocket cost on the clients behalf. What you really need to do to get the ball rolling is simply pick up the phone and call an attorney who specializes in these types of cases and then we get the records and hire doctors to review the records and give us analysis and opinions about whether there is a meritorious legal case. Then we have a meeting with the client, we say this is what we recommend. Either you don’t have a case that is worth pursuing or you do. Then we run with it. One of the most valuable services that we could provide, even in cases that we ultimately recommend to the client that we don’t pursue a case, is we can give them some answers about what happened and that’s one of the most valuable functions. Often times these families will have a ton of questions when there’s an adverse medical event about what happened in the whole scenario, why there’s a bad outcome or an injury to a loved one or a child and Greg and I can provide them with answers about what happened.
Greg: The fact that I am a physician enables me in the vast majority of cases to be able to simply talk with family members and just from the information that I gained, just from that interchange, I can almost always tell if it is something that can be pursued or something that really shouldn’t be pursued.
Host 1: All right, well if you have some questions give the Sweeney Law Firm a call today and they can provide you with answers that you need.