Victims of medical errors may face hurdle

Bergen Record
Monday, August 12, 2002

Victims of bad medical treatment may soon find it harder to figure out what happened to them.

Lawmakers in Trenton are planning to introduce legislation that would prevent victims from getting internal hospital documents that detail doctors' errors. Such documents can be critically important to victims, because they can help build a court case.

The legislation is part of a package of bills aimed at reducing the skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance. But patient advocates and lawyers argue the bill will add another layer of secrecy to a culture that already borders on the clandestine.

Doctors rarely acknowledge their mistakes in patients' medical records. Instead, the errors are explored in great detail in hospital memos, meeting notes, and reports - all of which are withheld from patients' medical records.

Patients can get the documents only if a judge orders the hospital to release them.

. . .

Doroshow, of the Center for Justice and Democracy, said it is ridiculous that doctors do not believe patients should have a right to documents or conversations directly related to their care. Why should a patient have to hire experts to try to figure out what doctors should tell them up front? Doroshow asked.

"It's ironic that doctors are placing the responsibility on the patient to sue them in order to get information when they are running around trying to cut off patient rights to sue and screaming about too much litigation," Doroshow said. "It's disgusting."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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