Medical error kills and seriously injures patients daily. Canadians are largely unaware of the extent of medical errors, until it happens within their own families.  Errors and medical accidents occur at the hands of physicians as well as medical personnel and staff across the industry almost every minute of the day.  Many of those mistakes are immediately recognized and corrected, resulting in little or no fall-out to the patient.  Other patients are not so lucky…

Despite the significant number of patients who suffer from death or significant injury, very few commence lawsuits aimed at compensating their losses.  Our informal research reveals 3 major reasons for this reluctance:

  1. Social reluctance – the patient feels that the medical provider did her or her best to treat them and any injury was not purposefully inflicted;
  2. Inability to find good counsel who will embark upon medical negligence litigation; and
  3. Concern that the physician will no longer treat the patient.

SOCIAL RELUCTANCE

When a driver has stopped for a red light and is rearended by a vehicle approaching a little too quickly from behind, a lawsuit ensues.  The “at-fault” vehicle’s insurance pays for the stopped vehicle’s damages.  That is how the law works.  No one suggests that the “at-fault” driver purposefully plowed into another vehicle.  An accident is usually the result of a lapse in judgment, mistake or insufficient training.

A medical mistake is no different.  By commencing litigation against a health care provider, the patient is not suggesting malicious intent.  That would turn malpractice into a criminal act.  It is simply the case that if a patient is injured or killed by a mistake, the patient or the patient’s family is owed compensation for the loss or damages resulting.

Doctors and hospitals in Canada are covered by funds that anticipate defending and paying out claims for negligent conduct.  The money to pay for a claimant’s damages does not directly come out of the health care provider’s pocket.  As a daily driver on Canada’s roadways, I can advise that if I make an error in judgment and seriously injure someone, I WANT my insurance to pay out!  That’s why I purchased premiums.  In the same manner, I would be surprised if many doctors did not feel the same away about their patients who have suffered the ill effects of poor medicine.

FINDING COUNSEL

It is difficult to locate counsel who work in the field of medical malpractice.  It is meticulous and specific work however, we are “out there” and most good firms will at least know someone they can refer to.

NO LONGER HAVING A DR.

It is the case that once you sue a doctor, they are unlikely to allow you to remain a patient.  That is an unfortunate repercussion.  However, it is also often the case that a care provider who has failed you is reluctant to treat you further even without a lawsuit.  And if they are not, perhaps they should be…can you be assured that further decisions will not be impacted by a desire to “right the wrong” previously done or perhaps even to cover it up?  The bottom line is that it is best for a patient to have a fresh and objective perspective no matter what.

 

Provincial medical Colleges are supposed to discipline doctors who consistently violate standards of care and do not put patients’ safety first.  However, we have discovered that many such doctors are not disciplined or have very limited repercussions.  In many cases, the unsubstantiated explanation of a physician is considered sufficient to close down a complaint.  Although some physicians may lose privileges to practice at their hospital, they often simply to gain privileges at another hospital.  Patients who have been injured are placated by the thought that the situation will change by making a simple complaint and they are surprised to find out that it does not.

 

If the medical system has failed a patient and significant loss has resulted, a civil lawsuit is the only means by which the patient is going to receive a compensation package aimed at “righting the wrong”.  Damage awards in civil litigation cases will cover lost income, including future losses, cost of care, damages for pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses and other damages.  There is no other known mechanism to ensure that wronged patients receive financial care.

When the medical system fails a patient, fixing the mistake medically is not always an option.  The only other option that makes sense is financial compensation by way of a lawsuit.

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