In Arizona, if a medical error injures a patient, the person must seek redress within an adversarial legal system fraught with delays and hidden information. Because litigation or the threat thereof offers the primary method of collecting compensation, physicians fear lawsuits and practice defensive medicine and hospitals often protect access to records about errors.
A former president of the Hospital Corporation of America has publicly called for the establishment of a new way for addressing medical malpractice. Instead of assigning fault for a patient's injury, a panel of health care professionals and an administrative law judge would evaluate grievances. The panel would make decisions and compensate victims in a timely manner. With this approach, more patients could recover damages, and medical care providers and institutions could focus on reducing mistakes instead of hiding them.
This new approach has gained traction in some state legislatures. In some aspects, it mirrors the ways that other countries address malpractice cases. For example, in Denmark, the national system pays injured patients and hospitals work together to identify sources of medical mistakes.
Until reforms make any substantive changes in the United States, a person injured by doctor errors must work within the existing legal system. An attorney familiar with medical cases could advise a person who suffered a worsened condition or permanent disability because of negligence. After asking a medical expert to review the records, an attorney could recommend whether or not the case might meet the legal standards of malpractice. If a lawsuit is prepared, the attorney would inform the defendants and possibly begin negotiations for a settlement prior to going to trial.