A recent report shows that medical malpractice lawsuits were up 30% between 2005 and 2015. And the amounts paid to plaintiffs doubled during this period. Since 2005, medical institutions have paid over 2 billion shekels in claims.
One of the speculated reasons for the spike in claims is due to the expansion of grounds for lawsuits. Patients can now sue for violation of patient autonomy as well as damage to his or her family.
In 2015, hospitals paid more than 220 million shekels in malpractice claims, mainly for claims of misdiagnosis and negligent care. Tens of millions of shekels were paid to psychiatric hospitals, health clinics and geriatric centers that year. The number of lawsuits spiked to 1,805 in 2015 compared to 1,184 in 2005.
But is negligence really on the rise? That is the main question posed by the public and medical experts.
Could it be that patients and their families are more involved in making medical decisions, so errors are more easily detected and reported? Are there more medical errors because of an increasing overload on the system? Perhaps personal injury lawyers need to have a better understanding of local laws.
Of course, there’s also the worry that the fear of malpractice lawsuits is influencing the way medical decisions are made. This is a problem that plagues the United States, another country with high rates of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Courts tend to rule in favor of the plaintiff – 48% of cases, according to Tel Aviv University. The main claim in the lawsuits was negligence or an error in diagnosis. In 49% of cases, plaintiffs alleged that there was negligent performance by a medical procedure. Another 31% claimed negligence in diagnosis, 16% claimed negligence in the choice of treatment, and 7.5% complained about poor monitoring of the patient in the hospital.
We’re also seeing more claims related to informed consent, which directly undermines patient autonomy. Under Patients Rights Law, Israeli patients must give informed consent for all medical treatments. And if your doctor fails to properly explain the procedure, it could be considered negligence, as you’re not truly “informed.”
It’s difficult to determine whether negligence is really on the rise. Patients and their families are more informed, which means that they’re better able to detect negligence and seek compensation through the legal system. But what’s interesting is that studies have found that only 6% of patients harmed by medical negligence actually sue.
The Health Ministry also attributes the spike in lawsuits to the broadening of liability of physicians, medical professionals and medical institutions.
When compensation awards rise, it encourages more people to file lawsuits. That creates a domino effect, where everyone is trying to get a “piece of the pie.”
We do know that the health system is looking for new ways to deal with malpractice cases. Because these cases are so complex, the courtroom may not be the best place to handle them.
The important thing here is to learn from these cases. Medical malpractice lawsuits give us the opportunity to recognize mistakes and make changes to prevent them in the future.