A recent article in the National Post, a nationally distributed Canadian newspaper that focuses primarily on financial issues, discussed at length the extent of error and “adverse events” in the Canadian health care system. The article concludes that the failure to publicly acknowledge errors harms patient safety:
The point of publicizing medical error, patient-safety experts stress, is not to shame or blame, or take away from the fact health care is replete with highly trained, dedicated professionals. Aside from a tiny smattering of true incompetents, no one comes to work expecting to dispense anything but exemplary care, says Rob Robson, a physician who led the Winnipeg health authority’s groundbreaking patient safety program for seven years.
When things do go wrong, it is typically the result of a complex interplay of factors, often involving underlying flaws in the system, he added. Finding ways to prevent those mistakes is, of course, the ultimate goal and subject of intense research and numerous initiatives.
But publicity about error helps both in drawing attention to the issue and providing a well of knowledge, say safety experts.
“You have to tell people that patients are getting hurt,” said Dr. Robson. “As long as the public doesn’t realize that one in 13 people coming into the hospital will experience some kind of adverse event – and that’s the conservative estimate – then there isn’t any pressure to say, `Listen, fix these damn things.’ “
Our experience in Vermont is similar. In Vermont, there are few “true incompetents” that are licensed to provide medical care in Vermont. Most practitioners intend to dispense “exemplary care.” However, clear cases of medical malpractice do occur in Vermont. Vermont’s medical malpractice law requires proof that the care failed to meet the standard expected of competent professionals. When that happens, and a patient is injured as a result, the Vermont’s medical malpractice statute provides a method to obtain compensation for the injured patient, and an opportunity for the care provider to improve its practices.
Tina Shoup, a partner in the Burlington Vermont law firm of Shoup Evers and Green, concentrates on medical malpractice cases.
For more information on our medical malpractice services and experience head to our medical malpractice services page.