NY attorney wants to use medical malpractice cases as teaching tools


It is said that those who fail to learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them. This is true in many aspects of life, but especially in medical care. The vast majority of medical mistakes are preventable; and unless physicians and aspiring physicians can learn from past medical errors, patients will continue to suffer preventable harm.

With this in mind, one medical malpractice attorney in New York has come up with an idea that has been well received by fellow attorneys and judges. He wants to create a central database of closed medical malpractice lawsuits with names and identifying information removed. Doctors and medical schools could use these as real-life case studies in order to learn from them and improve patient safety.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are intricate. Lawyers for both sides spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours researching the facts of a given case. They may also bring in independent medical experts to review the details of a malpractice claim in order to determine what went wrong and how it could have been prevented.

When the case is over, that mountain of information usually gets filed away and is unavailable for public review. If this attorney’s proposal is adopted, however, medical professionals and medical students in New York would have access to these powerful teaching tools.

The attorney recently held a panel discussion to get feedback from judges and experts in medical malpractice cases. Those in attendance seemed quite positive about the idea. The only concerns were about protecting the anonymity of plaintiffs and defendants, which seems easy enough to address.

If the proposal were to be implemented, New York would be the first state in the U.S. to create a centralized clearinghouse for closed medical malpractice cases. Hopefully, the proposal will be adopted and New York can set a positive example for other states to follow.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Tapping medical malpractice cases for safety lessons,” Terry Baynes, Apr. 11, 2013

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