A study conducted by The Doctors Company, the United States’ largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, found that there are several causes for patient allegations in emergency medicine lawsuits. The majority of lawsuits based upon negligence in the Emergency Room are prompted by an erroneous diagnosis. The majority of the 332 claims assessed in the study were based upon the failure to make a correct diagnosis or neglecting to address abnormal test results. Discharging patients prematurely from the emergency room also played a role in many of these cases studied. In addition, a doctor’s failure to record or review vital documentation relevant to the patient contributed to further injury and resulting lawsuits.
Even when a patient was timely and correctly diagnosed some cases were still warranted by inadequate patient management including the failure to treat an infection, inadequate observation or injury stabilization. Overcrowded emergency rooms and overall lack of professionalism contributed to patient allegations and injury in emergency medicine claims.
No doubt that this study by a major medical malpractice insurer was intended to underscore the importance of hospitals and emergency medical staffs becoming vigilant to the types of problems that prompt lawsuits. It is ironic that in our Stamford community, Stamford Hospital (operated by Stamford Health System, Inc.) has for several years sought to distance itself from responsibility for the acts and omissions of its emergency room physicians. Despite being required to staff its hospital with emergency room physicians, Stamford Hospital subcontracts for its ER staff with EMP (“Emergency Medicine Physicians”) of Canton Ohio. While many of these ER physicians are highly skilled and qualified, it is disturbing that when medical negligence lawsuits are brought for errors in the ER, Stamford Hospital will claim that the negligence of ED physicians is not its responsibility.