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You and the Hospital - Medical Malpractice Law

I remember a case involving amputation of a woman’s leg. The woman was admitted to the hospital and scheduled
for surgery. The procedure went smoothly and surgeons successfully amputated the woman’s lower left leg. She
recovered well and was soon discharged. The only problem was…surgeons were supposed to amputate her lower
right leg! This type of mistake doesn’t occur every day, but when it does, it is devastating. Now imagine this poor
woman is not permitted to recover more than $250,000 for pain and suffering. A $250,000 award for a case like this
would be an insult. However, if certain legislative reforms take place, we may find ourselves in such a situation.

If surgery left a patient brain damaged, a jury would not be permitted to award more than $250,000 in pain and
suffering. Currently, juries are not restricted by monetary limits.

Ordinarily, medical malpractice takes place when a hospital or doctor acts negligently. This means they fail to follow
a standard of care. As a result, a patient sustains injuries. Examples include leaving surgical instruments inside a
patient’s abdomen, administering a wrong drug, administering a drug to which the patient has a severe reaction,
etc. Medical malpractice can also arise if a physician fails to inform a patient of all risks and alternatives of a
medical procedure. The idea is that the patient is supposed to be placed in the best possible position to make a
decision. A doctor can also be held negligent if they examine someone and fail to discover a condition that they
should have discovered. This is known as “failure to diagnose”.

It is a difficult situation. Our legal system is supposed to protect the patient from incompetent doctors. Unfortunately,
it also forces good doctors to practice medicine more defensively. As a result, doctors may perform more tests and
be more conservative, even if their instincts tell them they don’t need to be so cautious. While their first concern
should be the welfare of the patient, you can’t blame a doctor for worrying about being second guessed by a jury
two years down the road.

As this issue is addressed in Washington D.C., the result will affect all of us, whether we are a doctor, lawyer, or
patient. If you would like to learn more about medical malpractice law and your rights, contact me at (718) 224-9824,
t.akpinar@verizon.net, or www.benimavukatim.com .                              

© 2005 Timur Akpinar
The medical malpractice field is going through
tremendous change. In April 2005, doctors gathered in
Washington D.C. to seek the aid of congress in
reforming the current state of medical malpractice
litigation. They carried signs saying “Save Our Doctors”.
They complained that rising insurance premiums have
made it very expensive to practice medicine. They called
for limits on awards of medical malpractice lawsuits. A
current federal proposal seeks to place a limit of
$250,000 on pain and suffering. If it passes, the law
would have tremendous consequences for the victim,
such as the woman described above.