In September of 2012, Newsweek ran the eye-opening article "Are Hospitals Less Safe Than We Think?" by Marty Makary. Makary begins by recounting one experience from medical school where a patient explained that she did not want to receive treatment for her ovarian cancer and would prefer to spend her remaining time with her family before she passed. Pressured by the doctors who overstated the benefits and understated the risk, the patient agreed to a biopsy. During the procedure, the biopsy needle accidentally punctured a major vessel, causing the patient to stay in the hospital for six weeks, all the while enduring blood transfusions, multiple CAT scans, and malnutrition from not being able to eat. Three weeks after her stay, the patient passed. She was robbed of the peace she sought for her final days due to medical malpractice. When the author explained his concern with the head surgeon, he was told that sometimes patients don’t know what they want and that doctors need to decide for them.
Perhaps it is this decisive attitude that causes many doctors to perform unnecessary medical procedures. Studies indicate that approximately one in every five medications, tests, and procedures are likely unnecessary. Harvey Fineburg, M.D., president of the Institute of Medicine and the former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health has said that between 30 percent and 40 percent of our entire health-care expenditure is paying for fraud and unnecessary treatment.
Along with encouraging unnecessary treatments, what is also worrisome about the healthcare industry is that there is currently no way to access a hospital’s procedure outcomes. A potential patient cannot measure the quality of care that is being given at a given hospital because even though hospitals keep track of this data, it is highly confidential. Makary compares the danger of this kind of secrecy to the lack of accountability found in the financial industry before the market crash. Markary makes the point that the public should be demanding hospital patient-outcome statistics. Why is it that we have car safety records to choose which car is safe to buy, but when choosing medical care, consumers choose blindly?
Markary points out that not only is there no way to gain access to hospital data, but it is also impossible to access doctor information as well, even those who have been "blacklisted." The National Petitioner Data Bank, collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is known as the national "blacklist" of doctors. The public has absolutely no access to this list. Markary points out that "while sex offenders’ names are broadcast to the community when they move into town, [...] doctors who lose their license in one state because of sexual misconduct with a patient are shielded by name in the database if their license is later restored or if they continue to practice medicine in another state."
While Markary underlines that hospitals and doctors are currently not held accountable for the care they give, top Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys know that patients are not without options when they have been treated negligently by a medical professional. If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the experienced Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyers at Portner & Shure. Changing the health industry will take years of lobbying and law making. In the meantime, hospitals should not be allowed to take advantage of patients. Patients like the one Markary saw in medical school need not suffer for their loss without justice.
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