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How can surgical error claims be handled better?

When an appointment with a doctor does not go as expected, patients often want to know the reason why. Even in the cases of surgeries that cost time in recovery or even a life, families often put an explanation at the top priority for healing. Some hospitals are trying to address that need.

What do hospitals do after a surgical or medical error?

Traditional expectations were once that a hospital would "close ranks" in this situation and withhold information until legal requirements had been fulfilled or even later. A more recent option is a formal pattern for "communication-and-resolution" of errors.

What do these programs provide for patients and their families?

The requirements of communication-and-resolution programs include a full formal explanation of an error and how it may be prevented in the future. This is provided regardless of a court finding of negligence or a lawsuit filed on the subject.

Is compensation provided under communication-and-resolution programs?

Financial restitution is an option under some programs. A program in Illinois estimated that it pays out settlements around the same amounts as jury verdicts would award, while cases are resolved more quickly.

What should I do if I suspect a medical or surgical error?

Communication-and-resolution programs are not yet a norm, as only 15 percent of U.S. health systems have them. Legal representation may be useful to a victim of hospital errors or the family of someone who died unexpectedly under medical care. An attorney can work with hospitals and courts toward justice for families whether a hospital has an official process or not.

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John J. Hopkins: From Working Iron To
Representing Those Who Work

ALTON —Like any successful trial lawyer, John Hopkins knows the importance of preparation. But he usually doesn’t write out the questions he plans to ask witnesses in depositions or in court.

View Article “I like to react to what the witness is saying—not only what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it,” Hopkins says.

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