I read an interesting article today by MC Kean entitled “Arrogance, Abuse, Fraud and Medical Malpractice: How Some Physicians Beg For Lawsuits.” Kean basically turns the table on doctors who are portraying medical malpractice victims as “sue happy” and exposes the real greed fueling medical malpractice suits which lies within the medical community itself.
Keen states, “Physicians and mass media often depict patients and their lawyers who file lawsuits against doctors as greedy, money-grubbing opportunist. 1 It turns out this is more projection than reality. A 1990 study by Harvard researchers of 31,000 medical records subjected to evaluation by practicing doctors and nurses, “found that doctors were injuring one out of every 25 patients (latter studies put that figure closer to one out of every seven patients), and that only 4 percent of these injured patients sued.” 2 Another Harvard study of 1,452 malpractice lawsuits found that more than 90 percent of the claims evidence supported medical injury and 25 percent of the time the patient died, 60% of these injuries resulted from physician wrongdoing. The study also found when “baseless” malpractice suits were brought they were “efficiently thrown out.” Only 145 of 515 patients suffering injury, but where physician fault was unclear received compensation. On the other hand, 236 cases were thrown out of court despite evidence of injury and physician error.”
Keen then outlines some of the ways in which doctors and hospitals profit from medical malpractice. I have summarized them as follows:
- Kickback Driven Medicine- Doctors will prescribe medication and implant medical devices that are either inappropriate for that patient or ineffective for the sake of money. Keen found that “in one study one third of the doctors interviewed, “admitted they would order unnecessary MRI scans and 25% referred patients to an imaging center where they had a financial interest”.”
- Promoting Unnecessary Surgeries- Doctors will often fail to disclose alternate or less radical form of treatment, even when they know the alternate treatment is a safer choice.
- Bait and Switch- This refers to a doctor switch during surgery. A person will take their time to choose a surgeon based on bedside manner, qualifications, etc., only to find out that a resident or less qualified doctor actually preformed the surgery while they were under anesthesia. The original surgeon then moves on to a higher paying client while the resident who is on salary operates on you with no supervision. Consequently, the surgeon is paid for two major surgeries while only performing one.
- Unnecessary Procedures and Exams for the Sake of Training- Unnecessary procedures are not only ordered for patients, but they are prolonged for the sake of training. Multiple students will take turns practicing the same procedure on a sedated patient. Keen states that “informed patients while often willing to accept one or two trainees, are less likely, for example, to consent to their pelvic or anus being penetrated multiple times by multiple people. This gang bang approach to teaching is very abusive”.
- Physicians Will Lie- Keen points out that “doctors are often arrogant and indifferent to the very concept of informed consent. Physicians patronizingly claim to know what is best for patients, while they fail to listen or respond to expressed needs, violate patients expressed will, and even do things to patients they would not allow be done to themselves”. He claims that doctors will do as they please and lie about it if it becomes a problem.
- Physicians Target the Poor – Because of their lower income level and at times lower IQ, Keen claims “physicians target the poor, mentally disabled, and seriously ill patients who are heavily dependent upon the medical access they receive, as they are less likely to file lawsuits”
Among Keen”s many suggestions to combat some of the issues listed above ( such as being skeptical of any doctor who tries to coerce you into taking medication, undergoing several MRI”s etc.), I think the best suggestion he offers is the following:
“When you find a doctor has abused you; let the rest of us know. Post flyers, post adds, get the word out about that doctor. Start an Abusive Doctor boycott list web site in your area. As we boycott those physicians and seek care with more ethical practitioners incentives may shift a bit.”
It is so important for patients to speak out regarding medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals have the financial backing to silence the few outspoken critics who attempt to rally congress against malpractice lawsuit caps and tort reform. With enough public outcry and bad PR for those doctors and hospitals that injure patients, change will slowly start to take place.
Admittedly, doctors are human and mistakes will happen even under the strictest regulations and safety procedures. However, it”s the careless errors that we can prevent by drawing attention to these problems. Public outcry will weed out the doctors who continue to abuse patients for the sake of money or those who continue to injure patients because they know they can get away with it.
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