Following calls for immunity from liability throughout the exceptional events of 2020, doctors across the USA have gained extra levels of legal protection. Law.com has outlined how a slew of states have directed legislators to provide extra protection for doctors amid challenging circumstances, and that many have now received a greater level of protection from the law when it comes to medical cases. However, for some legal experts, this raises concerning questions over what happens when negligence and malpractice come to the fore, and whether there is still a legal standard through which doctors can be held accountable.
Protecting the public
The need for medical malpractice liability is, of course, clear. This has been confirmed by recent studies analyzed by MIT Medical, in which it was found that a lowered level of legal liability in brain injuries, and, consequently, a lower risk of litigation from brain injury lawyers, increased the rate of C-section births in the USA. What this shows is that legal protections do, indeed, increase the safety of procedures within the clinical environment, and provide an active reason for raising the level of clinical standards. This is partly the reason that the USA has such high standards of health, at least at the upper end of the scale. However, MIT also notes that this raises the issue of ‘defensive medicine’ – where doctors are reticent to provide the best level of care they can for fear of medical malpractice cases. Simply put, doctors are less willing to take risks, even if they have great potential for good, for fear of retribution from litigation.
While this can work in some cases, in other instances, medical practitioners can be guilty of putting their financial interests ahead of providing the best care to the patient. For example, while they know that a tried and tested drug can be the best for a specific emergency, they can be tempted by pharma companies to suggest new medicines that might or might not bring the desired results. Understanding medical processes and strategies are complex and this is what gives medical institutions and practitioners the wiggle room to walk away unscathed. Unless you are working with a trained and experienced medical malpractice lawyer, you will never be able to get to the bottom of things and fix accountability. To get in touch with the best medical malpractice attorneys in the United States, please visit the website- https://www.puttingpeoplefirst.law/medical-malpractice-lawyer/.
An opinion piece published by the British Medical Journal asserts that the exceptional medical circumstances that encapsulated 2020 may provide an impetus for doctors to move away from defensive medicine. In their review, they noted the inherent level of uncertainty present in all medicine – after all, while the science has developed considerably over the past few centuries, there is still no way to say, with certainty, how any patient will react to anyone’s treatment or procedure. This uncertainty has developed considerably over the past year, yet, medical foundations have done what they can to adapt. Accordingly, the BMJ advocates for a more relaxed litigation atmosphere in the future in order to help with reducing the amount of defensive medicine, and as a result, improve patient outcomes.
Will it happen?
Healthcare Finance magazine believes that defensive medicine is a problem that is solvable in a way amicable to both sides – litigators and hospitals. One way is through the use of risk settlement teams, which have operated in Michigan since 2013. In these cases, if a patient has a negative outcome, they are immediately encouraged to mediate with the risk management team who will investigate the issue and provide consultation on the best outcome. This moves away from the aggressive nature of litigation, in which huge damages are often sought and in which doctors can find themselves before state medical boards. This is a more relaxed approach that looks to dig into the detail of any given case and have a fair hearing, assuming the best of both parties, and eliminating aggression from the process. According to Healthcare Finance, it also provides a good backdrop to future litigation where all parties are interested in only a fair outcome.
This could, in the future, be a reasonable and amicable way in which to approach conflict within healthcare. Doctors do need to be protected from vexatious litigation and should be able to practice to their best ability. However, this cannot come with the removal of all protections for patients.