A Medical Malpractice Attorney Deals with the Results of the Convergence of Many Factors:
Medical malpractice itself is often the result of a convergence of factors. While there is malpractice at the individual provider level, a larger, systematic problem exists which pushes individual providers to commit medical errors.
First, there is malpractice at the individual provider level. The reasons for negligence at this level are vast but include factors such as overworked physicians and staff, inexperience, and failing to recognize the need for a referral to a more qualified physician.
But the individual factors aside, a larger, systematic problem exists that pushes individual providers to commit medical errors. According to the Institute of Medicine, the pervasive problem of medical errors in United States healthcare is not bad people working in the field – it’s that good people are working in bad systems. Most errors cannot simply be resolved at the individual healthcare provider level.
Profits over Patients
One significant, systematic problem that exists in our healthcare industry is the profit motive. For corporations, profit is obviously considered a necessary thing that allows any business to continue to serve its customers (in this case patients) well into the future. The issue, however, comes when profit becomes more important than the patients themselves.
Like most professions (doctors, lawyers, etc.), there are significant amounts of money that can be earned by both the individual healthcare provider and the healthcare industry. But unlike a traditional business where profits are the sole goal, professionals (doctors and lawyers) owe a fiduciary obligation to their patients and clients. That means that a provider must put the patient’s interest above their own interests. When healthcare providers place profits above the care of their patients, medical malpractice can occur.
What is Medical Malpractice?
When a doctor or other medical professional fails to perform her or his duties according to established standards in the medical field and someone gets hurt or dies as a result, a claim for medical malpractice may exist. In New Mexico, to prove medical malpractice, a patient (or family member) must show the following:
- The medical provider owed a duty to the patient (generally meaning that the patient was under the care of the provider or received medical services from the provider);
- The medical provider breached the duty owed to the patient through an action or omission, meaning that the provider failed to possess and apply the knowledge and to use the skill and care ordinarily used by reasonably well-qualified health care providers practicing under similar circumstances, giving due consideration to the locality involved;
- As a result (proximate cause) of the medical provider’s breach of the duty owed to the patient, the patient was damaged.
If a patient can prove that more likely than not the healthcare provider (1) owed a duty to the patient, (2) breached that duty, and (3) the breach of that duty caused the patient’s injuries, then they may sue the healthcare provider for medical malpractice.
To meet their burden of proof, usually, a patient must have a medical expert to testify that the medical provider fell below the standard of care and the patient was injured as a result of the medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are some of the most difficult to prove in front of a jury and success of medical malpractice claims often turns on the evaluation and testimony of an expert witness.
Further complicating the issue are efforts by health care providers and others to restrict a patient’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. Many states (including New Mexico, in part) have enacted laws that place limits on medical malpractice lawsuits under the theory that these suits lead to more expensive care. However, studies show that efforts to restrict the constitutional rights of patients have not resulted in lower costs for consumers. Researchers have found no evidence that placing caps on the amount an injured patient can recover in a lawsuit actually reduces healthcare costs.
Reasons People Sue
There are a variety of reasons that people who have been injured or have lost a loved one through the negligence of a medical provider retain medical malpractice attorneys, but there is generally an overarching theme—justice and prevention.
Lawsuits often come from people and families who have experienced a life-changing outcome and are in dire need of resources to pay for past and future medical bills and lost earnings.
But generally those who file lawsuits are not simply seeking money or punishment—instead, they seek justice, fairness, and accountability.
Patients who have been hurt by their medical providers want to make sure that they are heard, that those who hurt them are accountable for their actions, and that they can help others avoid the same harm.