Suing for Medical Malpractice

As discussed in prior blog entries, even doctors who have developed a great deal of expertise and who might be using advanced technologies unintentionally make mistakes. That’s where a lawsuit for medical practice comes in. Case in point: A patient went in for surgery due to pain in the legs.  The surgery was to reroute the blood supply to the legs. During surgery, the surgeon failed to keep the patient’s blood thinned appropriately and clots formed which cut off blood supply to the patient’s organs. This led to overwhelming sepsis and organ failure as well as amputation of the patient’s legs. The patient sued for medical malpractice, by alleging among other things that the surgeon failed to live up to recognized and accepted standards of medical care or that the surgeon’s action or non-actions was a departure from those standards.

Under the law, medical malpractice (or medical negligence) can include misdiagnosis, improper treatment, or unreasonably delays in treatment–or in general, substandard care or lack of care.

A medical malpractice claim can include elements such as past and future medical bills, past and future lost income, physical impairments, pain, emotional suffering, and for family, the loss of the affection and companionship of a deceased loved one.

Medical malpractice cases in Indiana require compliance with specific, technical procedures. For example, all cases must be presented to a Medical Review Panel before a lawsuit can be filed in court. The Medical Review Panel is made up of a lawyer who functions as a non-voting chairman and who guides the three doctors named as the actual members of the panel. The patient selects one doctor for the panel, the defendant selects a second doctor, and those two physicians select the third doctor. Both parties are allowed to submit evidence to the Medical Review Panel in written form which can include: depositions, statements, medical records, medical literature, x-rays, and any arguments they would like to make as to whether they think there was or was not malpractice.  Neither party can contact the Panel members before they issue their opinion. After the materials are submitted, the Panel members meet to discuss the case and then render their written opinion. After the Medical Review Panel completes its work, the patient can then file in state court and proceed to a jury trial. The Medical Review Panel opinion is admissible in court but it is not binding on either party.

We will continue this discussion in the next blog entry.

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