When someone is severely or fatally harmed due to medical errors the first concern should always be about the patient and their families. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case as many hospitals immediately engage in the “deny and defend” model. This approach just makes the experience that much more difficult for the victims of medical errors to find out what happened. In fact, most patients never learn that they have been injured due to a medical error. This is corroborated by a recent study that found that 77 percent of 300 primary-care doctors admitted they would not fully disclose to a patient when there had been a delayed breast cancer diagnosis.
Patients who suspect or are somehow able to figure out they were victims of medical malpractice still have a difficult road ahead of them to obtain compensation for their injuries, due to the hospitals aggressive approach to defend their care. Typically after a medical error has occurred, hospitals or insurance companies have risk managers assess what went wrong. However, the risk managers do not routinely talk to safety experts and, as a result, valuable information about preventing future errors is not being identified or communicated. Additionally, the conlcusions of such investigations are rarely ever disclosed to the patient or his/her family. Another problem with the “deny and defend” mentality is that it is not uncommon for a doctor to be encouraged to deny or engage in a cover-up if an error has occurred when testifying in a malpractice claim, whether as a defendant or as an expert witness on behalf of another physician. Ethical guidelines for physicians make it mandatory that errors be disclosed to injured patients, even if it means there might be legal consequences.
Fortunately, there is a new approach being promoted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The new approach is referred to as CANDOR or Communication and Optimal Resolution. This new approach aims to get hospitals to work with patients by apologizing to the victims of serious medical errors and offering fair compensation for their injuries. Those opposed to the new system believe that it may cause more lawsuits due to not keeping the patients in the dark and bringing to light any medical errors that may have occurred. However, this has not been proven to be the case. In fact, just the opposite occurs: according to a study at the University of Michigan, full disclosure of medical errors resulted in its hospital system reducing the number of lawsuits by half, and saving the hospital system $2 million in litigation costs. This supports the time-honored principle that doing the “right thing” is always best. Patients are not, contrary to media propaganda, “sue happy”: most of the time they reach out to an attorney simply to get answers about why a loved one has been injured or died, when the hospital and risk managers refuse to tell them.
Here at Leeseberg & Valentine we understand the importance of transparency in the medical field. We believe that if CANDOR is implemented on a large-scale basis that it will offer a great opportunity for doctors to work with their patients rather than against them. Furthermore, we believe this system could drastically improve the number of preventable medical errors by investigating, acknowledging, and learning from them.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from a severe injury or died because of a medical error, and are unable to get an explanation from your medical care providers, please feel free to contact us. Our attorneys and highly experienced staff nurses will be pleased to assist you in getting answers to your questions.