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SMU Daily Campus


How Common is Malpractice?


When I was very young, my grandmother had medical problems. She relied on doctors for help, but something went terribly wrong, and she suffered a lot. I was young and don’t know much about the details, but I do know that my grandmother ended up suing at least one doctor for malpractice, and that she won.

This all made a pretty big impression on me, and I have a lot of trouble now trusting doctors. I’m worried that I’m not taking care of myself properly or visiting the doctor enough, but I have a hard time shaking my fear. Experts, how common is medical malpractice? Is my fear founded?

It sounds as if your grandmother’s experience really traumatized you. We’re sorry that she – and you – had to go through that experience. But it’s very important that you tackle your fears about doctors and begin to visit them more regularly. You don’t have to put complete trust in the medical profession, but you should know that regular visits to the doctor are an essential part of monitoring and caring for your health.

You don’t have to take our word for it, either: the CDC says so. They also say that more than 83% of us are making the right decision and going to a doctor each year. By not following suit, you’re putting yourself at risk over your fears. But are those fears founded?

It’s a sad truth that malpractice does happen, note medical malpractice lawyers in Rochester. Malpractice is defined by a deviation from the standard of care that results in damages incurred by a patient. Not every poor medical outcome is malpractice, of course – malpractice is limited to those times when the doctor does something other than any of the things they reasonably should have.

There are around 85,000 medical malpractice suits in the United States every year. That may seem like a lot, but there are a lot of doctors and patients in the United States, too. Looking at things on a per-capita basis, it’s hard to be nearly as shocked.

That’s not to say that malpractice suits are uncommon, exactly. Most doctors over 65 have been sued at least once. But we shouldn’t assume that every medical malpractice suit has as much merit as your grandmother’s seems to have. Many cases are settled, and some are dropped or thrown out. And not all doctors are sued equally often. Doctors in high-risk, high-stress areas like OB/GYN are more likely to see lawsuits (childbirth injuries are among the most common causes of malpractice lawsuits). Your primary care doctor is less likely to be facing lots of lawsuits.

That information answers your question, but it won’t necessarily make you feel better. It seems as if your grandmother’s experience is still haunting you, so perhaps you should seek closure on that. You may want to ask your parents for more details, so that the story is left less to your imagination. You may also want to speak to a therapist about your apprehensions regarding medicine and how they may have been influenced by your grandmother’s experience.

“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” – Hippocrates

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