Take Out the Trash & Toss Out the Medical Myths

MYTH art There is a ton of propaganda on the airwaves designed to convince the populace that healthcare is undeserving of critical assessment by outsiders. We surmise that the bulk of this weighty PR is generated by people and corporations who stand to gain wealth by societal mental sluggishness. And when those who read at all, dig no further than skin-deep – it works.

Here are a handful of niggling, oft-repeated medical myths that would be wise of you to toss to the curb, next time you head out to the rubbish bin:

MYTH:

The ever-growing threat of “being sued” is causing us to lose good doctors

FACT:

Over the past 10 years the number of “hands-on” doctors has steadily grown at the rate of 15,000 per year. The number of MDs per 100,000 citizens is now 310 –  an all-time high, outpacing our population growth. The number of doctors who actually leave the profession prior to retirement – for any reason – is miniscule.

MYTH:

Juries ‘pile on’ ridiculous malpractice verdicts

FACT:

Less than 1/2 of 1% of all malpractice losses result in an award of $1,000,000 or more, and court-mandated awards account for less than 5% of all medical malpractice dollars.

“Patient death” due to medical error usually pays out a paltry $200,000.

The typical award for a significant permanent injury is between $215,000 -$315,000. The typical award for cases where patients are rendered brain-damaged, paralyzed  or in need of life-long care is $600,000. These amounts don’t even come close to covering the cost of long-term care. A RAND think-tank study looked at the payouts in malpractice cases over 40 years and found that – in fact – average court awards have grown by far less than real income – <4%.

MYTH:

Doctors get sued for even accidental, minor injuries

FACT:

80% of medical malpractice lawsuits involve death or critical injury, according to a Harvard study. Patients death accounts for 25% of all cases; major and/or significant physical injuries were involved in  69%. Less than 4% were for minor injury.

MYTH:

Most medical malpractice lawsuits are frivolous

In any given year, 97% of malpractice suits have legitimate claim. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined over 1,400 medical negligence claims and found that 97% deserved to be litigated. Of those 1,400 claims, 80% involved death or serious injury. The study concluded that “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation, are unfounded.”

MYTH:

Greedy lawyers jump at the chance to file medical malpractice lawsuits

FACT:

In the real world, malpractice lawyers turn down 8 out of every 10 requests for representation they get. In many states,  studies have shown that only 1 out of any given 30 requests for representation leads to lawsuits – a 97% rejection rate by lawyers. That’s because attorneys already know how rare it is to win a case against a physician or hospital.

MYTH:

Most incidents of medical error cannot be prevented

FACT:

The best estimates are that somewhere in the area of 180,000 patients die each year as a result of entirely preventable medical errors. In spite of the appalling number of patients injured, only 33% result in a lawsuit.

MYTH:

The motivation for filing medical malpractice lawsuits is money

FACT:

Medical negligence payouts have dropped more than 50%, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Harvard researchers acknowledge that many injured patients are motivated to file a claim to discover what went wrong in the course of their treatment. Because most doctors and healthcare providers are not forthcoming with information when an error occurs, injured patients are forced to file a claim to find out what happened.

MYTH:

Medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up healthcare costs for everybody

FACT:

Medical negligence compensation accounts for  0.3% of national healthcare costs. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total amount spent defending medical malpractice claims and is 0.3% of America’s $2.2 trillion in healthcare spending. Meanwhile, the real drivers of healthcare costs are preventable medical errors, which are responsible for an additional – and unnecessary – cost of $29 billion annually.

And finally, there is this little jewel:

MYTH:

Juries love to clobber the doctor because they feel for the underdog, injured victim of medical injury

FACT:

Hate to burst your fairyland bubble, but in the USA, the doctor almost always wins the case. Contrary to popular belief, juries tend to side with the medical care provider, unless the injury is practically undisputed. And anyone who thinks it’s a piece of cake to convince a jury that an MD made a serious mistake? Well, they just aren’t paying attention.

_____________

“For decades, the American Medical Association and government officials have been blaming multi-million-dollar jury awards and frivolous lawsuits for ballooning malpractice insurance premiums. But that blame is wildly misplaced.” (Dartmouth health economist Amitabh Chandra, Phd)

So the real reason for so many malpractice lawsuits? It  ain’t rocket science.

It’s bad doctoring.

And you can take that to the bank.

_____________

 

 

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