Court decisions on medical malpractice.

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Court decisions on medical malpractice.

Int J Legal Med. 2014 Nov;128(6):1049-57

Authors: Knaak JP, Parzeller M

BACKGROUND: Recent studies on court cases dealing with medical malpractice are few and far between. This retrospective study, therefore, undertakes an analysis of medical malpractice lawsuits brought before regional courts in two judicial districts of the federal state of Hesse.
METHODS: Over a 5-year period (2006-2010), 232 court decisions on medical malpractice taken by the regional courts (Landgericht) of Kassel and Marburg were evaluated according to medical discipline, diagnosis, therapy, relevant level of care, charge of neglect of duty by the claimant party, outcome of the lawsuit, and further criteria.
RESULTS: With certain overlaps, the disciplines most frequently confronted with claims of medical malpractice were accident surgery and orthopedics (30.2%; n = 70), dentistry (16.4%; n = 38), surgery (12.1%; n = 28), and gynecology and obstetrics (7.8%; n = 18), followed by the remaining medical disciplines (38.8%; n = 90). Malpractice allegations were brought against the practice-based sector in 35.8 % (n = 83) of cases, the hospital-based sector in 63.3% (n = 147) of cases, and other sectors in 0.9% (n = 2) of cases. The allegation grounds included false administration of treatment (67.2%; n = 156), false indication of treatment (37.1%; n = 86), false diagnosis (31.5%; n = 73), and/or organizational negligence (13.8%; n = 32). A breach of duty to inform was given as grounds for the claim in 38.8% (n = 90) of cases. A significant majority of 65.6% (n = 152) of cases ended in a court settlement. Of the cases, 18.9% (n = 44) were concluded by claim withdrawal, 11.2% (n = 26) by claim dismissal and 2.6% (n = 6) by criminal sentence. Of the cases, 1.7% (n = 4) were for purposes of securing evidence.
CONCLUSION: Although there was no conclusive evidence of malpractice, two thirds of the cases ended in a court settlement. On the one hand, this outcome reduces the burden on the courts, but on the other, it can in the long term give rise to expectations that doctors will accept liability even in cases of inevitable deterioration following due and proper treatment.

PMID: 24676889 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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