Philly Hospital Errors Demonstrate Need for Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

June 23rd, 2009

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


Last Saturday, the New York Times published an article about rampant medical negligence in a Philadelphia hospital, drawing national attention to a terrible local problem. According to the article, with broken equipment and minimal oversight, a “rogue cancer unit” at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center botched 92 of 116 procedures intended to help prostate cancer patients.

The article cites many problems, from a regulatory system that allowed the doctor to revise his surgical plan after the procedure so that it would match his results to a unit completely lacking a peer-review system, but fails to truly explain how such problems could persist. The record of failure spans more than 6 years.

Shining light on a broken system is important; highlighting the problems of this hospital may help future patients to inquire further and to speak up when concerned about the treatment they’re receiving. The problem is, this light does little to help those patients who have already been harmed by the hospital errors. For the already injured, medical malpractice lawsuits provide the recourse that is so desperately needed following clear displays of medical negligence.

Last week, President Obama addressed the American Medical Association. In his speech, he indicated that he intends to reform the health care system, and that part as part of this reform he plans to work with doctors to limit their vulnerability to malpractice lawsuits. He expressly noted that he doesn’t intend to impose caps for medical malpractice awards, but he did not elaborate on the particular types of reforms he hopes to enact.

No one questions that the current health care system has flaws. The New York Times article provides but one example of the problems; a cursory search of any news source reveals many, many more. However, one must hope that when enacting any reforms, the current administration is careful to not to sacrifice the rights of injured victims.

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