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Hospitals shielding of doctors from liability

A 62-year old patient was treated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) for bleeding of the brain, and it is alleged that the doctors treating him were guilty of a number of medical mistakes that led to the man dying. Though the family of the deceased filed a medical malpractice claim against UPMC and four treating doctors, the claims against the doctors were dropped in exchange for a $1.37 million settlement to the family.

Why were the claims against the doctors dropped? Possibly this was a means of avoiding placing the doctors names in a database that keeps track of medical malpractice claims filed against such physicians.

These are some common practices of attorneys defending hospitals in medical malpractice claims. By such strategies, hospitals can put victims of medical malpractice in the position of either dropping the claims against the doctors and taking the settlement or bringing the case all the way to trial. Such victims may not have the time or resources to go that route.

Essentially, what such a tactic does is prevent attorneys representing victims of medical malpractice of finding out about prior medical mistakes made by a specific doctor. Though the hospital may still pay out a settlement to those injured, no one else can ever be sure what doctor was specifically at fault for what occurred.

A goal in bringing medical malpractice cases is to prevent future medical malpractice from occurring. If the doctors responsible are held liable, they may be forced to change their ways of practicing medicine or be forced out of the business. This cannot occur if hospitals choose to protect doctors guilty of medical negligence.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Removing doctors in settlements can deflect oversight," by Sean D. Hamill, May 20, 2012

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