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The most well-known patient safety research project ever released is the “To Err is Human” report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine. You can download your own free copy of the report here.

One statistic in particular from the study is often shared by patient safety advocates. The report noted that each and every year nearly 100,000 patients are killed by preventable medical errors. The figure is helpful is quickly illustrating the scope of the medical mistake problem. While most doctors, nurses, and aides do their best to provide proper care, the sad reality is that we still have a very long way to go before all medical patients receive reasonable care free of mistakes every time they visit medical professionals.

To Err is Human was first released in 1999. However, follow-up studies from the Institute of Medicine and many other researchers has found that little has changed in the last thirteen years. Tens of thousands of patients continue to be killed and many more injured each and every year as a result of various errors in medical care. It is incumbent upon all practitioners and administrators to do everything in their power to improve patient safety figures.

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This month, Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White attorneys Andrew G. Slutkin and Jamison G. White filed a medical malpractice case in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County against Genesis Brightwood Center, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility on Falls Road in Baltimore. The case is on behalf of an elderly women who was admitted to Brightwood Center after a double knee replacement. During the admission to Brightwood, while an aide was getting her dressed in her room she was caused to fall to the ground. When she struck the ground, the woman landed on both knees, which injured both knees and split open the surgical incision of the left knee causing it to become infected due to contamination with bacteria. As a result of the fall and continuing infection of her left knee, over the next few months the woman was readmitted to the hospital three times for complications from the infection. These three readmissions caused substantially more rehabilitation then otherwise would have been necessary, including three admissions to other rehabilitation facilities. As a result of the malpractice, the woman also has suffered extreme pain, suffering and emotional distress from the fall. She also has permanent left knee pain and requires antibiotics for life.

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It is now possible for patients to compare the care received at hospitals in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This can be useful in determining whether certain Maryland and Washington D.C. hospitals have a higher incidence of medical malpractice. As reported today in a leading newspaper, consumers can now search a website and compare local hospitals to see how they stack up against each other. A copy of the article regarding this issue can be found here.

Last year, the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a comparison of death rates for heart failure and heart attacks, noting how hospitals compared with the national average – better, worse or no different – without releasing the death rates themselves. This year the agency disclosed that information to consumers. The website contains statistics on what percentage of a hospital’s patients get appropriate care for a variety of ailments, including childhood asthma, and 10 measures of patient satisfaction with the hospital experience. Knowing a hospital’s death rates also gives consumers the ability to decide where they want to be treated, and where medical malpractice is more prevalent. Click here to search the database.

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A new study has found that most personal injury plaintiffs who decided to pass up a settlement offer and went to trial ended up getting less money then if they settled their injury case prior to trial. A copy of an article regarding the study can be found here.

While the results of that study may hold true for many lawyers, my experience as a medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland and the District of Columbia has been the opposite. For almost 20 years, I have been a civil trial lawyer handling complex litigation. Most of the matters I work on are catastrophic injury (medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, major collisions) and business litigation matters. I handle approximately a dozen such litigation matters a year. In the overwhelming majority of these cases, I have been successful for my clients. During my entire career, a few clients’ cases have been thrown out of court and have lost a few trials (I can recall approximately three defense verdicts), but I have been successful in more than 90% of the cases that I have pursued. This includes many trials where the defense offered either nothing prior to trial or a minimal settlement offer, resulting in my taking the case to trial and getting a million dollar plus verdict. A list of some of my verdicts can be found here.

While no lawyer wins every case, the above-referenced study shows that my success rate is unusually high, which I believe is due to enjoying what I do, limiting the number of cases I handle, picking the right cases to handle, carefully working up my cases before trial and working very hard. I don’t say any of this to be conceited, but to demonstrate how concentrating in a field of law and adhering to the above-referenced practices can significantly help a client avoid the results of that study.

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This past weekend, there was a fascinating story in the New York Times about doctors who say “I’m sorry” when a medical mistake is made. A copy of the article can be found here. According to the article, some of the leading hospitals in the country are instituting policies that encourage doctors to apologize when a medical mistake is made. What a novel idea!

In my experience, one of the most frequent reasons that people contact my office to investigate a potential Maryland medical malpractice case, is because their doctor will not tell them what happened when something went wrong. These new steps should help doctors avoid medical malpractice cases.

Interestingly, Maryland recently enacted legislation that makes apologies by doctors inadmissible at trial in medical malpractice cases, furthering the goals stated in the New York Times article.