Oops! I operated on the wrong side!F. Amos Bailey, MD Sep 29, 2020
There is a current push to shield or reduce the liability of employers when one of their workers gets COVID-19 and is sick, disabled, or even dies. This is wrong on so many levels.
Who are the people that are most at risk of catching COVID-19? Is it the doctor or the executive working from home? No, it is more likely to be the EMT who is a Latina and mother of 4 who I saw after she was placed on ECMO. She did go home but will she work again? Or the Black man who works in the cafeteria. We will never know if he caught COVID on the bus or at work, but his elderly parent also became infected and died. Or Nina who emigrated from Africa and works as a Nurse Aid and spent considerable time with COVID patients who were too sick to do their own personal care. Several months later, she still feels weak, fatigued, and short of breath.
These are the people that are keeping this country going, and they are most at risk and have the fewest resources. If anything, we should be supporting them, not making it hard for them to receive any compensation for their injuries or their families for their deaths.
I have been around for 40 years in practice, and this is the third or fourth Medical Malpractice Crisis that I have worked through. Every time the response has been to make it harder for people to sue, which is often the only way you can get any compensation. Not fix the problems.
When I was a senior in medical school, I was the victim of wrong-site surgery. We have two arms, legs, lungs, kidneys, etc. I had a problem with my left knee, but when I woke up, I realized I had bandages on and pain in both knees. My surgeon had started on the wrong side. After a good long while and some trimming of normal cartilage, they realized they were on the wrong side and started over. A few months later, in the same city, a surgeon amputated the wrong leg. Since then, there are a lot of procedures to keep this from happening, such as marking the site before going to the OR and a time out before starting the procedure to make sure they have the right patient and the right plan.
We both sued. Me for not that much- but the other guy who lost his leg for more as was appropriate. Since then, the state has passed Malpractice Reform and capped awards at $200,000, which is not enough to compensate for many lives altering medical injuries.
We need to make sure that we protect patients and families if we reform malpractice and liability insurance again and not just protect those who seem to have all the resources.
Sage WM, Boothman RC, Gallagher TH. Another Medical Malpractice Crisis? Try Something Different. JAMA. Published online September 17, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.16557