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Early this year, the American Association for Justice, the nation’s premier trial law organization, put out it’s report Medical Negligence: The Role of America’s Civil Justice System in Protecting Patients’ Rights. This report relies upon published data from unbiased sources, such as the Institute of Medicine, the Congressional Budget Office, the New England Journal of Medicine, Archives of Surgery, the Office of the Inspector General and many other organization, to clearly show that there is no crisis in the U.S. of too many lawsuits. The crisis is too much medical negligence.

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A few facts:

Medical Negligence kills 98,000 patients per year. That is more than diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Influenza and Pneumonia. Only heart disease, cancer stroke and pulmonary conditions kill more people than malpractice. Hundreds of thousands more suffer injuries.

The cost of medical malpractice suits amounts to less than 1% of the money spent on medicine in this country. In fact, only 0.3%. Government administration amounts to 10.5% of the cost. Hospitals and physicians invest 200 times more into their facilities than they pay out in medical malpractice.

Between 2004 and 2006, it is estimated that 238,337 people died as the result of medical malpractice. In that same period, only 38,363 payouts were made to victims of medical malpractice.

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80% of the victims of medical malpractice suffer death, or major or substantial injuries as a result of medical negligence. 3% suffer no injury at all and 17% suffer minor injuries.

Caps on payouts in lawsuits DO NOT make doctors flee those states that do not have caps, as many would have you believe. In fact, states without medical malpractice lawsuit limits have an average of 349 doctors per 100,000 citizens. In states with caps, that number drops to 288.

Doctors are not benefitting from limits and restrictions on lawsuits, malpractice insurance companies are. From 2000 to 2006 the amount that malpractice insurance carriers have collected from doctors has gone up 121%. In that same period, the amount they have paid out on claims has gone down by 15%. As always, the insurance companies are profiting, not anyone else.

Our civil justice system protects patients. Fight to keep this vital check on medical errors.

There is a great resource for the most current information on medical statistics, including information on medical malpractice claims. It is statehealthfacts.org a Kaiser Family site.

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For any given state, you can access statistics on how many persons are without health insurance, health costs and budges, mortality rate, Medicaid and Medicare enrollment and much more.

Also of interest is information on medical malpractice claims. Statistics on the number of claims paid in 2010, as well as the total amount paid in claims, and the average amount paid per claim, all broken down by state.

Congressman Phil Gingrey, Republican from Georgia, is again sponsoring a congressional bill to sharply cut malpractice awards. Interesting, since, as the New York Times reports on February 8, 2011, Congressman Gingrey has been sued for medical malpractice and his insurer has paid a settlement.

The details of the lawsuit are contained in the New York Times article, so no need to repeat them here. Suffice it to say that Congressman Gingrey is also Dr. Gingrey, an obstetrician. And this isn’t the first time he’s introduced bills to protect doctors at the expense of their injured patients.

The simple fact is that good doctors make mistakes and when they do, people die or are badly hurt. Medical malpractice is simply medical negligence. You wouldn’t restrict an award that could be entered against a trucking company that caused a death in an accident would you? If not, then why would you restrict the right for the victim of medical negligence to be fully compensated? The injuries aren’t any different. Death is still death. Whether the negligent person is a truck driver, an airplane pilot, a company that manufactured a deadly product, or a doctor, negligence is negligence.

And when the person introducing the bill is biased, you have to wonder. Don’t you?

Missouri’s doctors are policed by the Board of Healing Arts. And Missouri’s Board is among the most lax in disciplining physicians, according to a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article, Missouri Secretive, Lax on Doctor Discipline. The Post recounts a story all too familiar to those of us who spend our professional lives prosecuting medical negligence actions: doctors who perform the wrong surgery, who falsify records to cover it up and do so again and again, simply aren’t subject to any meaningful discipline. Suspension of a doctor’s license in Missouri is almost never done, and then usually only when another state’s board has suspended the doctor’s license to practice.

In another article, “Deviant Doctor got OK to Work in Bootheel” the Post describes a truly horrendous situation in which a physician, already on probation for improperly dispensing prescriptions, merely had his probation lengthened after he admitted to the board that he was having improper sexual contact with his patients. It was not until the physician, Martin McDonald, was charged with sexual abuse by Dunklin County prosecutors did the Board take action to suspend his license.

Missouri patients deserve real governmental oversight of all professions, but particularly those whose actions can cause grave harm and death. The process of “disciplining” doctors is long and complicated and allows physicians with known problems to continue to put their patients at risk, with no warning to the patients or the community.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on June 11th that Dr. Alexander Kalk, a family practice physician from Creve Coeur, has closed his practice, thrown confidential patient medical records in the trash and has left Missouri. Dr. Kalk was facing licensing discipline from the Missouri Board of Healing Arts. He may also be facing criminal charges regarding his handling of patient medical records.I am familiar with Dr. Kalk, have previously prosecuted a medical malpractice case against him when he was working as a staff physician at a St. Anthony’s walk in clinic. These allegations of bizarre behavior, including living in his medical office, have existed for some years.If you or a family member has been injured as a result of the negligence of Dr. Kalk, you may have a cause of action, not only against him, but quite possibly any hospital that granted him privileges. He was most recently on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. Hospitals generally have a duty to patients to only grant privileges to physicians who are qualified and properly trained. Please contact The Law Office of Todd N. Hendrickson to discuss your case.

You’ve been injured, whether it was in a car accident, work place injury, or due to medical malpractice or as a result of a faulty product. Have you ever thought about how you talk to your doctor about these injuries? No? Well you should …

Doctors write office notes and reports about every office visit they have with you, and every time they see you in the hospital. Doctors are the historians of your medical condition. What they write can affect any legal case you may have. Whatever the doctor documents about your injury or condition is what the insurance company, defense attorney, judge and jury will see. And all too often, if you try to say “that isn’t what I said!” who do you think that insurance company, defense attorney, judge and jury are going to believe?

Doctors are just like everyone else. They want to be successful at what they do. They want their patients to get better. As a result, doctors records tend to be biased in favor of recovery. I’m not saying it is an intentional bias. In most cases, it is not. It is just that their job is to make you better and they want to believe that they are achieving that goal.

So … how does what you say to your doctor affect what they write? Simple: unless you are 100% recovered, never tell a doctor “I feel fine” or “I feel better.” We all know that those statements are usually followed by an “except ….” “Doc, I feel fine, except my left leg is still killing me. I can’t bend it the way I should and the pain wakes me at night.” If your doctor has been treating this condition for awhile, chances are, his records will record: “Patient feels fine” or “patient improved.” In fact, you aren’t. And you’ve just created a hurtle for you and your attorney to overcome.

So, resist the temptation to say “I’m better” or “I’m fine” if you aren’t. Prepare for your visit with your doctor. Think about how your injury or condition has been since you last saw your doctor. Be prepared to tell him, quickly and succinctly, each of your complaints. Tell him or her what triggers any pain. Tell them if it hurst after certain activities or at certain times of the day. Be prepared to give them examples of things that your injuries have kept you from doing, or have made difficult to do, such as housework, your job, recreational activities. Don’t exaggerate. Never exaggerate! Simply list your problem and leave out “I’m fine” out of your vocabulary until there is nothing else on that list of things that are hurting or bothering you. Then, and only then, are you “fine.”