All over the country insurance companies and the medical profession are fighting to strip patients of their rights in medical malpractice cases. One of their key tactics in convincing average Americans that these so-called tort reforms are a good idea is their painting of malpractice plaintiffs as people who are filing “frivolous lawsuits.” When do this they discount the real people out there who have been seriously injured or even killed by healthcare provider errors. Occasionally a case comes along in the media that demonstrates just how horrible the effects of medical malpractice can be, and how tragic the consequences of doctors errors can be for patients and their families. One such case recently went to a jury trial in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Jury Awards Paralyzed Woman $35 Million
The Boston Globe reports that a Dedham, Massachusetts jury awarded over $35 million to a woman earlier this month in a medical malpractice case. The woman, Andrea Larkin, experienced dizzy spells back in 2004 after running the Boston marathon. So, she went to a doctor.
The medical professionals performed an MRI and a CAT scan which showed brain abnormalities. This meant that the doctor she had seen was supposed to put her name on a special list of patients for other doctors to access. The doctor did not follow this procedure. This meant that when Larkin got pregnant four years later and went back to the same practice her obstetrician did not know about her brain issues because she was not entered into the proper database. Had the obstetrician known about the brain issues the doctor would have ordered a c-section. Instead Larkin was allowed to go through labor, which was dangerous given her condition. She then suffered a massive stroke within hours of giving birth that left her completely paralyzed except for her right arm. She now requires around the clock care and has trouble speaking.
Larkin filed a medical malpractice lawsuit which took years to go to trial. When the jury heard all of the evidence it decided that the medical professionals had committed malpractice and decided what the appropriate damage award was–justs over $35 million. This otherwise healthy mother who was a marathon runner cannot even move her legs any more due to a doctor’s negligence. Yet tort reformers would say that the jurors who heard the evidence have no business setting the damage award amount, and that instead the legislature should set some completely arbitrary number.
How Much Do Strokes Cost?
According to the American Stroke Association, Americans paid approximately $73.7 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability in 2010. But these costs are really only the tip of the iceberg. Think for a minute of all of the additional costs to a stroke victim like Larkin. What is the loss of independence worth? What is the loss of mobility worth? What is the loss of the ability to care for your newborn child worth? All of these factors are factors the jury was able to consider in light of all of the facts of Larkin’s case. And that is why juries are important to the process. Rather than there being some strict formula they can look at the realities of the situation and make a real human judgment based on their own common sense and experience.
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