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How is Medical Malpractice Different in the US?

Around the world, people rely on doctors and hospitals to make them well when they are injured or get sick. Unfortunately, doctors and other medical staff occasionally make mistakes that can have serious consequences for patients. When these mistakes cause injury and are made because a medical professional deviated from accepted norms of practices, it’s referred to as medical malpractice.

How Common is Medical Malpractice?

According to a 2016 study, medical errors might be the third leading cause of death in the United States. The study suggests that medical errors may kill more people than emphysema and bronchitis, which means that only heart disease and cancer are deadlier. The doctors who conducted the study estimate that there are at least 251,454 deaths due to medical errors every year in the United States. Even more alarming is their contention that the number could actually be much higher, because home and nursing home deaths aren’t counted in the total.

Prior to this study, most estimates about the rate of medical error were based on a study from 1999, which estimated that the number of people who died annually was between 44,000 and 98,000.

Clearly, medical error is a very serious problem. However, as we’ve mentioned before, not all medical errors rise to the level of medical malpractice. Still, these numbers point to an alarmingly high rate of negative medical outcomes.

Is Medical Malpractice More or Less Common in Other Countries?

Patients experience negative medical outcomes or injuries due to negligence, errors, and substandard care all around the world. Thus, it’s fair to say that medical malpractice occurs in every country.

There are two main differences between countries when it comes to medical malpractice: health care systems and malpractice systems. It’s difficult to ascertain whether medical malpractice is more or less common in other countries because of these different systems.

Health Care Differences

Every country’s health care system is a little different. Some of these differences emerge from prevailing cultural values. In some European countries, for example, it’s common for doctors to downplay the risks of a procedure or course of treatment if they believe it to be in the patient’s best interest. European doctors reportedly see their role as more paternalistic than doctors in the United States, who are much more likely to value patient autonomy. Different attitudes about the role of doctors may affect whether actions they’ve taken that lead to negative outcomes can be considered malpractice.

Medical Malpractice Systems

Additionally, developed countries around the world have adopted one of two main malpractice systems. Tort litigation, adopted by the United States, determines compensation based on negligence. In other words, compensation is payable when the negligence of care is proved to be the cause of injury by the injured patient. This is intended to deter physicians from causing injuries through negligence by making them responsible for their actions.

Other countries have what’s known as a “no-fault system,” which retains the proof of negligence, but provides compensation based on proof of causal connection between treatment and injury. The idea in no-fault systems is that eliminating blame from the system of compensation allows patients to work within the system to receive compensation more easily.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Although there are significant differences between health care and malpractice systems around the world, we all share the same goals. In every society, there’s a strong belief in compensating victims of injuries and deterring substandard care, wherever possible. If you have questions about medical malpractice, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield for a free consultation. With over 70 collective years of legal and trial experience, they can offer you the expertise required to handle your medical malpractice questions.