The Facts about Medical Malpractice: Don’t be Afraid to Get What You Deserve

Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, one of the largest concentrations of medical practices and hospital facilities in the world. The Texas Medical Center performs more heart transplants than any other system of hospitals in the world, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is one of the largest and most well respected institutions researching and practicing oncology. But the size of the Medical Center—50 medical institutions and 15 hospitals covering over 1,000 acres and seeing six million patients annually—means a lot of medical malpractice cases, even at some of the best and most prestigious hospitals in the world.

Polls show that the popular opinion of medical malpractice perceives a system rife with abusive, predatory litigation that substantially increases medical costs for the rest of us. However, statistics show that there are far fewer malpractice suits than there are cases of negligent medical error—between 15,000 and 19,000 suits annually versus 1.4 million patient safety incidents resulting in 195,000 deaths. This may be because the perception of medical malpractice makes suits difficult to litigate effectively. This is probably especially true in Texas, one of the first states to enact medical malpractice reforms; these laws have no demonstrable effect on the incidence of preventable medical accidents and has a negligible effect on an average hospital’s total operating costs (most of which is spent on malpractice insurance), but their presence in a state makes medical malpractice more difficult to litigate and indicates an unsympathetic public, which likely means an unsympathetic jury.

None of this changes the facts, especially as they apply to patients in Houston; medical malpractice is underreported, and many victims of preventable medical error don’t get the compensation they deserve, and may be scared away from doing so by the perception that they’re participating in a system that preys on doctors and honest medical practitioners for unavoidable mistakes. However, the negligible contribution malpractice litigation makes to total healthcare costs in the United States—about 2% and shrinking annually—suggests that what should really concern healthcare consumers is the dispensation of justice in cases of negligence or preventable human error.

Someone who suspects they or a loved one has been wrongfully injured in the course of medical treatment may also be reluctant to litigate because the injury was the result of an honest mistake or simple bad luck; sometimes there’s nothing the doctors can do. However, a doctor isn’t likely to own up to negligence, and you need a professional medical malpractice attorney on your side to help sort out the facts and get appropriate compensation. A Houston medical malpractice attorney isn’t just a litigator—they are an investigator, advisor, and a friend who can help you through what can be a very difficult time.

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