November 2020 Newsletter

Neurosurgery journal examines medicolegal issues across the practice

The November issue of Neurosurgical Focus closely examines the overlap between medical and legal challenges faced by neurosurgeons both in the U.S. and around the world.

With 22 peer-reviewed articles and studies on medical liability, physician experiences with lawsuits, the impact of telemedicine, and the global legal climate for neurosurgeons, the edition is one of the most in-depth resources on medicolegal issues available to neurosurgeons and the physician community.

The journal’s introduction sets the tone for the current landscape, highlighting that “the majority of [liability] claims fail in their attempt to establish breach, as the standard of care is loosely defined, and most consented risks are not viewed as a deviation from standard care.”

It also highlights the risk faced by the neurosurgeon community as a whole, with 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the U.S. facing medical liability litigation each year. This risk is compounded by the fact that the average indemnity payment for a closed neurosurgical civil claim is $439,146 — the highest of all medical specialties.

Reviewing the current reforms underway at the state level, the study titled ‘Status of current medicolegal reform in the United States: a neurosurgical perspective’ concluded that, “A desirable legal system for neurosurgeons, including caps on economic and noneconomic damages and availability of medical review panels, can lead to safer practice.”

In a personal look at the effect on individual physicians, ‘Experiences of neurological surgeons with malpractice lawsuits,’ was a study that used survey tools across the membership base of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. What clearly emerged as a trend was that “The fear of being sued, the financial aspects of practicing defensive medicine, and the proportion of neurosurgeons who are considering leaving the practice of medicine emphasize the need for a shift in the medicolegal landscape to a system in which fear of being sued does not play a dominant role and the interests of patients are protected.”

While facts and figures were specific to neurosurgeons and the liability risks they face in their practices, health care providers can access all articles for free and benefit from recommendations on positive physician-patient relationships to mitigate liability risks.

To read the latest Neurological Focus issue in full, click here.

Frivolous vs. meritless: Which lawsuits are a threat?

As physicians continue to navigate a patchwork of liability laws across the U.S., a Medscape article takes a look at which lawsuits pose the biggest risk.

Patients may seek recourse for a medical outcome that was unexpected, and lawsuits outside of those brought forth by deserving patients are often frivolous or meritless.

“In the vast majority of nonmeritorious claims, the patient has suffered an adverse outcome, it’s just that it wasn’t the result of negligence, whereas with a frivolous lawsuit, they really haven’t suffered any damage, so they’ve got no business filing a lawsuit on any level,” stated Mike Stinson, vice president of government relations and public policy for the Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association) and HCLA Chair.

Many physicians consider a claim frivolous if they are named as part of a long list of co-defendants, requiring time, effort, resources and costs before their lack of involvement causes them to be dismissed.

However, claims without merit occur more frequently and pose the biggest threat to physicians.

According to the MPL Association’s Data Sharing Project, a review of 18,000 liability claims reported from 2016 to 2018 showed that 65% were dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed. Of the 6% of claims that went before a jury, more than 85% resulted in a verdict for the defendant, the researchers found.

In these cases, there was no finding that the adverse event experienced by a patient was the result of negligence.

To read more about frivolous vs. meritless lawsuits and the personal experiences of several physicians who faced lawsuits from both categories, click here.

Grateful and thankful for health

This year, more than ever, we are thankful for our health and that of our family, friends and colleagues.

As our health care workers continue to work tirelessly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Protect Patients Now offers our gratitude and appreciation to them for going above and beyond during unprecedented challenges on our nation’s health care system.

Our fight to protect those who support our health and wellness continues, so their important work serving patients everywhere can go on.

To all of those in our grassroots network, the HCLA and our member organizations wish you a Happy Thanksgiving as you celebrate safely this holiday.