The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that 1 percent of all physicians in the United States account for almost one-third of all paid medical malpractice claims. Researchers reviewed 66,000 paid medical malpractice claims between 2005 and 2014. The medical malpractice lawsuits in those 10 years involved 54,000 physicians across the country.
The patient died as a result of a physician error in about one-third of the medical malpractice lawsuits included in the study. A little over half of all the paid claims involved serious injury to the patient.
Top Practice Areas for Paid Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
In terms of practice areas, more than 50 percent of the paid claims were against doctors in these specialties:
· Obstetrics and gynecology
· General surgery
· Internal medicine
· General practice
The study found that a small percentage of the doctors had previous paid medical malpractice claims. But it also determined that doctors who have had three paid medical error claims are three times more likely to have another than doctors with only one paid claim for a medical error.
How to Identify Doctors Who Make Catastrophic Errors
So how can one tell if a physician has made serious mistakes in the past? It’s not easy.
Federal law created the National Practitioner Database in 1986. The purpose was to help states identify potentially unsafe physicians based on their previous medical errors. However, the database does not identify doctors by name. They are assigned a number to protect their identities.
The study’s authors call on medical care organizations, such as hospitals and medical malpractice insurers, to do more in sidelining doctors who repeatedly make dangerous mistakes.
It should not be up to patients to somehow protect themselves from dangerous doctors. Yet they and their families pay a terrible price when a physician makes a serious mistake.
If you were catastrophically injured or had a loved one die as a result of a preventable medical error, a lawyer who represents victims of medical malpractice can pursue justice on your behalf.