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Doctors surveyed on medical malpractice

Why do doctors get sued for medical malpractice? The answer is probably obvious to most readers: doctors get sued when they are negligent and commit acts that harm patients. There are also cases of doctors failing to diagnose or failing to treat diseases and conditions; those failures can also constitute malpractice, of course.

A recent survey by Medscape --- a website for primary care physicians and specialists --- asked nearly 4,000 doctors why they believe doctors get sued. Their responses were very interesting.

According to Medscape, 59 percent of the survey respondents have been named in at least one medical malpractice claim. Twelve percent said they were the only ones named in at least one suit.

The Medscape survey indicates two reasons for malpractice claims are tied as most common: "patients suffering abnormal injuries" and failures to diagnose, both being named by 31 percent of respondents. (Doctors could choose more than one reason why malpractice lawsuits are filed.) Failures to treat illnesses were named by 12 percent of physicians. Four percent named medication errors and 4 percent said poor documentation was a contributing factor and 3 percent cited failures to follow safety protocol. Another 3 percent indicated failures to get informed consent prompted lawsuits.

Fourteen percent of doctors in the mid-Atlantic region --- of which West Virginia is a part --- reported awards of more than $500,000.

Clearly, the stakes are high in these lawsuits. For the doctor and the insurer, the stakes are mainly financial, while for the patient the stakes are much higher. A victim of medical malpractice can be subjected to a lifetime of compromised physical abilities, pain, disfigurement, long-term medical care and much more.

In Huntington, victims and victims' families can speak with skilled attorneys experienced in this complex area of law.

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