New law changes requirements for malpractice cases

Medical malpractice is a highly complex area of law and ethics in America today. In Pennsylvania and throughout the other 49 states, laws vary dramatically with changes happening frequently. Many situations or actions can constitute a medical error such as instruments or other objects being left inside patients’ bodies after surgeries or providing unnecessary treatments to patients. When a failure to diagnose a problem correctly leads to a worsened condition, negligence can be considered the cause.

A recent change in Wisconsin law could have a big impact on future medical malpractice cases in that state. The new bill requires that physicians disclose to patients only information about alternative options that the physicians feel is necessary or reasonable. Prior to this legislation, doctors were required to tell patients about all options that would be considered reasonable from a patient perspective.

A case that recently resulted in a non-economic award far higher than the state’s current cap legally allows relied in part on the old law which would have been in effect at the time of the incident. The defendant, a 53-year old woman, sought treatment at a local emergency room but was not informed of a potential infection before she was sent home. The ensuing spread of disease led to her current quadriplegic state. The negligent physician and physician’s assistant were both found guilty of not providing adequate information to the patient that may have encouraged her to seek additional treatment soon enough to save her arms and legs.

Cases like this illustrate the level of detail involved in malpractice claims. When medical errors are suspected, patients may wish to consult with an attorney to decide how best to proceed.

Source: Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, “Jury awards Milwaukee woman $25.3 million in medical malpractice case,” Cary Spivak, July 7, 2014