Latest News 2017 April Why Suing Your Hospital Keeps Everyone Safe

Why Suing Your Hospital Keeps Everyone Safe

For the last 30 years, lawsuits and plaintiffs have gotten a bad rap. Frivolous or ridiculous-sounding lawsuits become punchlines—or worse, become justifications for why the court system shouldn't hear out injury claims anymore. The health insurance industry is only one of many institutions to blame injury lawsuits for society's ills, in this case blaming medical malpractice cases for the rising cost of healthcare.

While that claim might be spurious on its own, the point of this blog is to talk about the part of medical malpractice lawsuits that often goes ignored: their positive social impact.

Suing Hospitals Holds Them Accountable

It's a silent truth that businesses won't do the right thing unless you make them do the right thing. If a business can't be sued for it or lose money from it, then there's no real accountability for them. If a hospital can't be made to pay for its mistakes unless the hospital administrators are uniquely generous, then your rights aren't really being upheld. The point of a right is its legal security—you shouldn't have to depend on generosity for your speech to be protected. Why should you depend on generosity for your health rights?

The ability to bring legal action against a hospital for medical malpractice establishes and affirms your rights and the rights of all patients in that court's jurisdiction. It creates a precedent, making it easier to hold that hospital accountable the next time it is negligent or careless with a patient's safety. In the end, litigation serves as a statement: hospitals must take care of their patients, and there's no excuse for harmful mistakes.

Suing Hospitals Forces Them to Re-Evaluate Their Procedures

Medical mistakes are often an institutional failure as much as it's the failure of an individual doctor or nurse. For example, there was once a story of a man who was provided an antacid following his surgery—except the nurse handed him a powerful anesthetic by mistake. He went into respiratory failure and was put into a permanent vegetative state. He died a month later.

For the nurse to have handed him the wrong medication in such a massive dose, she (and her colleagues) would have had to ignore multiple protocols. Failures like this are about the hospital's procedures and policies, not just one person's mistake.

Following a medical malpractice event, hospitals are forced to ask themselves why something occurred, and they are obligated to pour whatever resources they have into ensuring it never happens again. They rewrite the rules, they establish new supervision and firewalls, and they help make sure that there are multiple walls of protection between patients and negligence.

Suing Hospitals Keeps Future Patients Safer

Often, when a harmful or deadly event occurs at a hospital, it's not so much a fluke as it is an inevitability. It's far more likely that something terrible occurred because a hospital's culture of carelessness caught up to them—in other words, mistakes are rarely a one-time thing.

In many cases, doctors have had a history of causing painful or fatal harm to patients, but hospitals have kept them on staff to recoup their investment or to protect the doctor (and the hospital's) reputation. It's not until their mistakes are publicly dragged into the light that change occurs.

Malpractice lawsuits dredge up the mistakes, the carelessness, and the history of the defendant to get to the truth. High payouts, damaged reputation, and the other effects of a malpractice suit force hospitals to make sure that what happened in this case never happens again.

Lawsuits force hospitals to:

  • Use more stringent hiring standards
  • Employ stricter, safer protocols
  • Update their health equipment
  • Retrain their staff for better performance

In the hospital's process of protecting themselves from future litigation, patients get safer care. Malpractice victims get the satisfaction of knowing that their lawsuit did more than provide for their own needs—it helped ensure that what happened to them wouldn't happen to anyone else.

Combined, the power of a successful malpractice lawsuit could change the way your community receives healthcare. For that reason alone, people shouldn't see lawsuits as frivolous or greedy. Lawsuits are how the courts give people the power to level the playing field with large institutions. Lawsuits make everyone accountable—and that has benefits for every individual in your neighborhood.