Preventing Medical Errors with Jury Trials

Written By Thomas Hall

Medical Errors are a Widespread Problem

According to the Journal of Patient Safety, up to 400,000 Americans die every year due to medical errors.

To put that statistic in context, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, there were a total of 291,557 battlefield deaths of American servicemen and women during the 3 years and 8 months of World War II.

And it gets worse – in that same article in the Journal of Patient Safety, it is estimated that in addition to up to 400,000 deaths per year, 10 to 20 times that number suffer a serious injury due to medical errors. The fact is, many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented if hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare professionals followed simple, well-recognized safety rules. For example, postoperative infections can be reduced to the point of virtual elimination if doctors and nurses are required to wash their hands before moving from patient to patient.

How Everyone Can Work to Fix the Problem

The simple fact is, hospitals and other medical organizations in the healthcare community have been woefully ineffective in reducing, let alone eradicating, this crisis of medical errors. Government regulations are, for the most part, ineffective.

The single most effective means of attacking this crisis is the jury trial. When a jury holds a negligent doctor or hospital accountable for their error, it tells them, and others in their profession, that they must pay attention to safety or be held accountable for the harm caused by their errors. Many of us remember when automobiles had only lap seatbelts. Then came three point seatbelts. Then came airbags. This progression of safety occurred because juries found automobile manufacturers responsible for the unnecessary carnage suffered in vehicular crashes. As a result of those jury verdicts and the safety reforms that they sparked, the number of vehicular deaths continues to drop every year.

The jury is the voice of the community. No community should tolerate deaths and disabilities that could have been avoided, if the doctor or hospital simply followed common sense safety rules that would eliminate medical errors.