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Where is the Accountability in Medical Malpractice?

Patrick Malone wrote an article for the Huffington Post discussing the lack of accountability of doctors in medical malpractice. In the medical industry, a doctor will lose his or her license for only flagrant patterns of drug or alcohol abuse or other criminal behavior. The health care’s big safety emphasis in recent years has been to create a “no blame” culture that encourages reporting of medical errors and injuries by promises of confidentiality and non-punitive action. This idea was implemented so that medical errors can be corrected by implementing “systems” changes, such as checklists to make sure all appropriate steps are taken to prevent infections. Yet this system also allows physicians who repeatedly put their patients in jeopardy to ignore the rules. This occurs often when surgeons don’t follow the now routine practice of “signing the site” to prevent wrong-site surgery. This explains why an estimated 4,000 wrong-site surgeries are still performed every year in the United States. Some medical safety leaders are starting to call for accountability for rules violations. They stated that “every safe industry has transgressions that are firing offenses.” They proposed a short list of offenses in the hospital that call for suspension of a doctor’s practice for a limited time such as: failing to perform hand hygiene, skipping the sign-over to a new provider at the end of a shift, not marking the surgical site, and failing to use a checklist at the start of surgery to make sure everyone in the operating room knows the special needs of the patient. To read more about doctor accountability, please click the link.