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The CMG Voice

Estimates of Annual Deaths From Medical Mistakes Grow Higher

Posted Sunday, September 23, 2012 by Gene Moen

A study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety says the number of deaths that occur because of preventable errors and mistakes in a hospital may be between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year.

Here is a link to the article:

A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care

That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second. And these are deaths resulting from preventable errors in hospitals. No study has yet estimated the number of deaths that occur because of outpatient negligence, such as misdiagnoses in clinics or prescription errors, or the even greater number of serious injuries that occur. The amazing thing is that, if even a faction of this number died from auto accidents or airplane crashes, there would be a huge effort by the U.S. to find the root causes of the tragedies, and massive efforts would be made to correct the problems. Yet some in Congress still want to restrict the rights of patients to bring lawsuits that would at least identify some of the errors that lead to deaths and injuries from medical negligence. In effect, they want to grant immunity to a medical system that produces appalling statistics as outlined in the Journal of Patient Safety article.

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What Malpractice Crisis?

Posted Sunday, August 19, 2012 by Gene Moen

For the last several decades, the medical associations, pharmacy companies, and the insurance companies for both, have contended that there is a “malpractice crisis” in the United States. As a result, they have said, medical costs are escalating and doctors are leaving their medical practices. The intent has been to do two things: to push state and federal legislatures to impose draconian “tort reform” laws, and to influence juries in medical negligence cases to side with the defense to avoid what they are told are bad results of verdicts for plaintiffs.

None of the allegations are true. Where “tort reform” measures have been passed, as in California and Texas, the cost of health care has not decreased. The number of doctors moving to those states after the laws were passed did not increase beyond what would be expected with population growth. “Defensive medicine,” which is claimed to be a major factor in health care costs, has never been shown to influence such costs. Independent studies have shown that the cost of malpractice insurance coverage is less than one percent of health care costs in the U.S. Furthermore, a recent study by Public Citizen has shown that the number of malpractice cases filed has been steadily decreasing over the past 10 years. The imagined “crisis” that was used to push legislatures to restrict the right of injured patients simply does not exist.

During this same period, however, independent studies have shown that 90,000 people die every year in hospitals because of preventable medical errors. And that does not count the permanent injuries suffered during hospitalizations OR the death and injuries occurring during outpatient care. With that figure in mind, why has the number of malpractice filings actually decreased? A simple answer: the risks and costs of pursuing a medical negligence claim are huge and many valid claims cannot be brought. Because of the negative jury attitudes resulting from the medical and insurance company propaganda, juries are reluctant to side with the injured patient. At the same time, the hospitals and doctors have unlimited amounts to spend defending medical cases, so the claimant has to spend very large amounts to take a case and to present it at trial.

Almost all medical negligence cases are handled on a “contingent fee” basis, which means the attorney gets nothing for her efforts unless there is a recovery. That means attorneys must screen cases very carefully to determine if there is a reasonable possibility - in light of jury attitudes and the large costs - of achieving a settlement or prevailing at trial. When medical groups and insurance companies claim there are too many “frivolous” lawsuits or people are playing the “litigation lottery,” ask yourself why an attorney would take on a frivolous case in light of the risks and costs of doing so?

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Welcome to The CMG Voice Blog

Posted Thursday, June 14, 2012 by Catherine Mee Moen

Welcome to the Chemnick | Moen | Greenstreet blog “The Voice.” We have been representing victims of medical negligence for 30 years and hope to share what we have learned along the way. We will write about current legal events, post articles about the medical and legal professions, talk about technology and trial strategy, and share firm news. We were recently featured in the King County Bar Bulletin, where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about the founding partners - and more!

Chemnick | Moen | Greenstreet

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Chemnick | Moen | Greenstreet
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