Hospital Death Highlights Complexity of Medical Malpractice Law

A newspaper’s detailed account of a teenage girl who suffered brain damage and eventually died because of negligence during what should have been a routine outpatient procedure was presented to Congress last week by patients rights advocates, according to an account in the Sacramento Bee.

The girl suffered brain damage during what should have been a routine procedure at a Los Angeles area hospital operated by UCLA. She never regained consciousness and died shortly after her parents authorized the removal of her respirator. What is truly shocking about this case, however, is the lengthy battle the girl’s parents had to go through just to get the hospital to level with them about what happened – and the difficulties they experienced in finding a medical malpractice attorney willing to take the case because of statutory limits on medical malpractice damages.

Hospitals and doctors claim such limits are necessary to curb frivolous lawsuits. In many states, however, the effect has been to shield the medical industry from accountability for negligence, particularly negligence leading to wrongful deaths here in Oregon and elsewhere around the country. Relatively low damage limits, in particular, can create an incentive for hospitals to stall families and their wrongful death attorneys with the goal of making the case too expensive for a personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer to pursue.

Additionally, the wide variance of medical malpractice law from state to state can make it especially difficult for bereaved families to know where they stand.

For all these reasons it is especially important that families who believe they may have been the victim of medical negligence here in Oregon to contact a Portland medical malpractice attorney at the first possible opportunity. Justice is best served by making the proper enquiries as soon as possible after the damage is done.

Sacramento Bee: Parents assail malpractice caps after daughter’s death at UCLA hospital