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Attorney Van O'Steen

All Pay for Medical Malpractice

Van O'Steen

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I never have met a victim of legal or medical malpractice who supports the proposition that those who commit malpractice should be legally shielded from the financial consequences of their substandard work.

It should be no surprise that victims do not share the popular public attitude toward limited liability in this area. Our attitudes are largely self-serving on both sides.

Victims want to be fully compensated for the damage done.  Most other people see malpractice awards as increasing the cost of professional services.

Lawyers who earn their living handling medical or legal malpractice cases (whether for victims or insurance companies) have an obvious interest in the outcome of the debate. Likewise, all doctors would like to pay lower malpractice insurance premiums, thereby increasing their profits.

No one is neutral on this issue.

Many people incorrectly believe that a bad result alone from a medical procedure or legal matter justifies a malpractice award. A heavy burden of proof, and generally a costly legal battle, awaits all malpractice claimants. If you doubt this, try to find a lawyer to handle such a case for you.

Doctors who deliver babies pay among the highest professional liability insurance premiums. This is not by accident.

Mistakes made during the birth process can be devastating. A child may be left with catastrophic permanent injuries, requiring a lifetime of supervised care.

The leading causes of cerebral palsy are complications in pregnancy and labor. Fortunately, modern medical science has given us technology to detect and correct many problems that might result in this terrible condition.

Unfortunately, a few doctors who deliver babies either are unfamiliar with the procedures to follow in appropriate situations or they are inattentive at critical times.  A few careless doctors can greatly elevate the insurance premiums of all of their peers.

A partial but meaningful solution to the malpractice insurance problem is for professionals to better police their members. Periodic training and testing should be mandatory. Those who fail to meet high professional standards should be barred or removed from practice.

If a high level of competence is maintained, less malpractice will occur and fewer claims will be made. If other factors are constant, the result would be lower premiums for all.