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Malpractice suits remain a tool against preventable medical error

Most Maryland residents will go to a doctor whenever they have health-related problems that seem serious enough to warrant medical attention. Along with other health-care providers such as nurses, a physician will assess a patient's condition and determine the necessary treatment. Unfortunately, not every patient who undergoes medical treatment manages to walk out of the hospital alive. Although rare overall, medical professional errors such as inappropriate surgery can be fatal for patients.

In 1998, the Institute of Medicine released a study report that tackled medical errors. The study reported an estimated 98,000 patient deaths each year from preventable medical errors. In 2010, the inspector general for the federal Department of Health and Human Services stated that one in every seven Medicare patients suffered adverse events in the hospital such as wrong-site surgery and even fatal mistakes.

When a patient has suffered injury such a medical professional error, a medical malpractice claim is likely to follow. Not all malpractice cases go to court, though. Furthermore, one public interest group found that the rate at which claims are being processed in courts could be one reason why medical malpractice payments have fallen to their lowest level since 1991 - just 0.12 percent of national health costs in 2013.

In Maryland, medical malpractice victims are advised to seek legal professional help. Handling a case without the experience of someone who has navigated the courts and the law governing malpractice may not be the best option. Plaintiffs should also seek the assistance of other health-care providers who can shed light on their cases and determine whether negligence was a factor in any specific incident. Plaintiffs can also request their medical records for additional reference.

Compensation is often based on a plaintiff's losses. Past, present and future medical expenses are also compensable under a medical malpractice suit.

Source: Concordmonitor.com, "My turn: malpractice is still a problem," Chuck Douglas, Jan. 25, 2014

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