Firm-Wide blog

Malpractice Victims Must Overcome ‘Culture of Secrecy’

By Burg Simpson
March 9, 2016
2 min read

Regardless of the amount of faith many Americans want to place in their doctors, the fact remains that physicians are capable of mistakes. Some of these mistakes can, unfortunately, result in serious injuries and even death. While some of these mistakes are allegedly “unavoidable,” a news investigative report suggests that the damage caused by such errors is frequently compounded by the secrecy and cover-ups that abound in their wake.

Sweeping malpractice under the rug?

The aforementioned report, entitled “How Hospitals Hide Medical Malpractice,” pulls the cover back on a “culture of secrecy” that surrounds medical malpractice events in major institutions. According to this report, hospitals maintain meticulous records of medical mistakes, but rarely disclose such details to patients or the public at large. The report quotes the Director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University, Professor Maxwell Mehlman, who explains, “People who are injured as a result of medical malpractice are almost never told that has happened by their doctors or by hospitals where it’s happened.”

Malpractice can be deadly

Among the terrifying incidents cited as examples of this type of medical malpractice is a case in which doctors left surgical gauze in the body of a 69-year-old patient’s stomach for three weeks after dental implant surgery. Shockingly, the doctors who performed the surgery knew about the gauze but chose not to inform the patient or his wife. It was not until they sought a second opinion that the mistake was discovered. Even after surgery to remove the foreign object, the victim, a Vietnam veteran, never recovered, and eventually died within six months of the initial surgery.

Government agencies compound the problem

In conjunction with secrecy at medical institutions, the investigation also revealed that data collected by government agencies regarding medical mistakes are not made available to the public. Take, for example, the National Practitioner Data Bank, which Congress created to prevent dangerous physicians who have surrendered a license in one state from practicing elsewhere. Notwithstanding the thousands of disciplinary actions reported to the NPDB about medical professionals, these professionals’ names and employers are kept private by law.

As this report illustrates, medical malpractice victims and their families need vigilant legal advocates to fight for their rights.

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