Today's News

Friday, March 17, 2000

Legal issues in health law addressed at session

Key legal issues concerning the medical industry were addressed in an open discussion on health law Thursday led by Linda Haddad, a Pittsburgh lawyer with the firm of Horty, Spring & Mattern, P.C.

A specialist in the area of medical litigation and malpractice, Haddad led the presentation with humor, but did not mask the complexities of the issues at hand.

"One million patients each year are injured by errors committed by hospital workers," Haddad said, quoting a survey by the Institute of Medicine.

"The great irony is that the people who are injured usually don't sue, but the people who sue usually are not the ones who were injured," she said.

Physicians attending the forum voiced concerns about avoiding litigation, salvaging professional integrity and securing the faith of patients and industry professionals following negative publicity about medical mishaps.

"Litigation is about vengeance," Haddad said. "It occurs when people are unhappy and disgusted with the treatment they have received. The best way to avoid litigation is by consistently talking to and spending quality time with the patients."

Statistics from a 1997 Agency for Healthcare Policy study indicate physicians may reduce by 57 percent the number of lawsuits filed simply by spending an average of three more minutes with each patient.

"I'm not sure how they determine those statistics, but I don't question them," Haddad said. "By extending your patient visit to 18 minutes rather than the standard 15, you can secure patient confidence and guard against a lawsuit. Just make sure not to leave your hand on the door when you are talking to the patient. Let them know you are genuinely concerned for their well being and that you are listening to their concerns."

"Your primary concern as physicians should be what is in the best interests of the patient," Haddad said. "Commit to a health care covenant - a promise to be better than anyone expects you to be. If you treat every patient with dignity, provide information that will enable them to make informed choices and continually develop, assess and improve protocols, the focus may shift back to health care and away from legal entanglements."

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Last modified 17/March/2000 by IS