In 1971, leading sociologist William Ryan published his landmark work, Blaming the Victim, in which he identified a phenomenon in which perpetrators of harm justify their actions by pointing the finger at their victims. While Ryan’s work focused on ethnic minorities and the attempts of his colleagues to pin the blame for their plight on the victims themselves, the theory of “victomology” has been extended to any number of groups who suffer at the hands of individuals who wield greater power over them.
Shifting the focus
One of the latest groups to have the finger pointed back at them by the very people who caused harm is medical malpractice victims. In a December 2015 publication entitled “Medscape Malpractice Report 2015: Why Most Doctors Get Sued,” doctors were surveyed about the “best ways to discourage lawsuits.” Among the top answers to this question were:
- “Cases should be prescreened for merit by medical panels before they can proceed” (81%)
- “Place caps on noneconomic damages” (62%)
- “Cases should be tried before health courts” (48%)
- “Lawyers should be banned from taking cases ‘on contingency'” (37%)
Ignoring the most obvious answer?
Shockingly, only 13% of the physicians surveyed answered that the “best way to discourage lawsuits” is for “doctors to stop making medical errors.” This outcome may point to a pervasive perspective in the medical profession that encourages doctors not to view themselves as responsible for their harmful mistakes, which are the ultimate cause of most medical malpractice cases. With doctors pointing the finger at everyone but themselves, Medscape’s study seems to suggest that doctors may even see themselves as the ultimate victims of medical malpractice suits.
Identifying the real causes of suits
The responses of these doctors are even more disturbing in light of other results published in the Medscape report. When questioned about the nature of their medical malpractice lawsuits, the response that tied for first place were failure-to-diagnose suits and patients suffering abnormal injuries. With these causes of action dominating medical malpractice lawsuits, the doctors’ responses about how to decrease lawsuit volume seem even more bizarre.
Contrary to what many physicians may tell themselves, medical malpractice is not the fault of victims or their legal representatives. Medical malpractice victims are entitled to compensation for the pain they suffer due to their caretakers’ negligence.