Most people have a great deal of faith in the medical profession due to its high level of standards. And it can be difficult to believe that health care professionals can be careless or negligent. But it does happen, and more often than one would imagine. In fact, The Institute of Medicine has estimated that preventable medication errors result in more than 7,000 U.S. hospital deaths annually.
As a society, we highly value doctors and medical experts because of the critical services they provide for our health and well-being. However, we also place an enormous amount of trust and faith in the care that they provide. Essentially, we live with our lives in their hands; and unfortunately, sometimes we do so to our detriment. While we hold doctors in the highest esteem, they are not perfect in serving our health. In fact, sometimes healthcare providers can be negligent or careless, putting their patients’ lives at risk. This occurrence too often results in severe injury or even death, and is referred to as medical malpractice.
If you or a loved-one is a victim of medical malpractice, a Melbourne personal injury attorney can help.
Medical Malpractice Law in Florida
Under Florida Law, a doctor has committed medical malpractice when his or her negligence violates the standard of care owed to the patient, resulting in injury to the patient. The standard of care applied to doctors is inferred from the principles and techniques that are commonly accepted in Florida’s medical community.
In order for a patient to be compensated for medical malpractice, the victim needs to prove that “…the alleged actions of the health care provider represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care for that health care provider (Florida Statute 766.102).”
According to the Institute of Medicine’s comprehensive study on medical malpractice, medical errors “are a leading cause of death in the United States… At least 44,000 and perhaps as many as 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. Deaths due to preventable adverse events exceed the deaths attributable to motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297) or AIDS (16,516).
“The number of medical errors reported by Florida hospitals exceeds the number of medical malpractice claims filed each year by 6 to 1”
- The number of medical errors reported by Florida hospitals exceeds the number of medical malpractice claims filed each year by 6 to 1. About two-thirds of malpractice claims arise during hospitalization. Reports prepared by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration have compared reports of adverse incidents in hospitals to the filing of new malpractice claims. From 1996 through 1999, Florida hospitals reported 19,885 incidents but only 3,177 medical malpractice claims. This means that for every 6 adverse incidents in the hospital only 1 malpractice claim is ever filed. See Section I.
- Six percent of the doctors in Florida are responsible for half the malpractice. Public Citizen’s analysis of the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank information, which records malpractice judgments and settlements since September 1990, found that 2,674 of the state’s 44,747 doctors have paid two or more malpractice awards to patients. These doctors are responsible for 51 percent of all payments. Overall, these doctors have paid $1.2 billion in damages. Despite the fact that claims history predicts future claims, neither the state medical licensing boards nor the insurance market have been effective in reducing
malpractice. See Section II, which includes examples of the most egregious repeat offenders.
- Many of Florida’s most dangerous doctors continue to practice and the state watchdog is asleep on the job. There are 1,555 physicians who have been disciplined by Florida’s state medical and osteopathic boards for incompetence, misprescribing drugs, sexual misconduct, criminal convictions, ethical lapses and other offenses. Many were not required to stop practicing, even temporarily. In fact, only 36 percent of Florida’s disciplinary actions in 2001 were serious – meaning license revocation, suspension, surrender or probation. When compared to the rest of the country, only two states were worse in that regard, Wisconsin (22 percent) and North Carolina (32 percent). Overall, Public Citizen ranks Florida 26th among the states in terms of the performance of its state medical board, which is charged with policing the medical profession.