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Medical mistakes come with $120 million price tag

Maryland patients considering a medical malpractice for an emergency room error or an allegation of hospital negligence may feel some sense of fear at the thought of taking the first step toward a claim. The road to justice can seem long and uncertain, and having suffered so much already, patients often want to put the matter to rest. Truly though, doing nothing is doing something, and that action could mean that another patient may suffer the same fate.

In the conclusion to a long fought medical malpractice legal battle, a jury in another state recently awarded a woman $120 million for injuries she sustained after being treated at three different hospitals in New York in 2004. The woman's mother filed the medical malpractice lawsuit on her behalf after she suffered brain damage following a series of hospital visits. The award is among the largest in state history and seeks to compensate the woman for hospital negligence.

According to the allegations, a series of hospitals and physicians mismanaged the woman's care from the very beginning. The woman had sought treatment for a seizure and alleged that throughout a month of care, hospital staff mismanaged her medications, failed to respond to crises, and did not provide essential treatments for her. In the end she suffered brain damage. A jury found for the woman.

The city has announced its intent to appeal the findings.

Skeptics and naysayers might read about this $120 million verdict and think it is just about the money. However, sometimes the only way to hold a negligent organization or person responsible for the damage they have done is to hit them where it hurts. The real headline of this story is not simply the dollars and cents involved, but the effect it is likely to have on improving hospital safety.

Source: The New York Times, "Brain-Damaged Woman Wins Suit Against City Hospitals," Matt Flegenheimer, May 25, 2012

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