In 2011, more than $3 billion was paid out in medical malpractice lawsuits. This is a staggering figure, yet it is only the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of people have sued pharmaceutical companies in the last ten years. Many patients who took the acne drug, Accutane, sued Roche Pharmaceuticals after suffering terrible side effects. The Xarelto injury lawsuit
has also been in the headlines more than once. Many more people have sued their medical practitioner because of poor care.
These cases do not exist in isolation. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors and other medical specialists are sometimes cavalier in their approach to our health and welfare. Money talks, and if there is a lot of money to be made from selling drugs, sometimes safety issues are pushed on to the backburner. Why do people sue?
A cynical person would argue that people sue their practitioner or the drug company because they are seeking a large financial settlement. Many companies will settle out of court rather than risk spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting a claim through the courts. If a claim is settled out of court, the plaintiff walks away with a lump sum, and although they might have been awarded more by a judge, this is by no means certain.
However, most people sue for very different reasons. For example, if they or a loved one has suffered catastrophic and life-changing injuries, they face a lifetime of expensive medical bills. A large settlement as a result of a successful lawsuit could be enough to ensure they are adequately cared for in perpetuity. Seeking redressThere is also another reason
why people embark on the stress and uncertainty of a lawsuit claim. They might not be able to change what has happened to them or their loved one, but they can make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.A climate of fear
The problem with high-profile lawsuits against drugs companies and medical practitioners is that they create a climate of fear and persecution. Medical lawsuits can be hugely expensive, often taking many years to resolve and costing millions of dollars in the process. As a result of the costs, malpractice insurance premiums are rising, which inevitably has a knock-on effect on the quality of care patients receive. A 2003 report
to Congress found that rising malpractice premiums was causing a shortage of primary care options in five states where problems had been identified. The lack of available care affected emergency surgery and obstetrics, often in rural areas, as physicians closed or moved their practices to avoid potential lawsuits.
Medical lawsuits are certainly controversial, but one could argue that without them, medical practitioners and drugs companies would not be held accountable.