The Canadian study concluded:
o As many as 24,000 patients die each year due to "adverse events" (doctors code words for a medical mistake).
o 87,500 patients admitted annually to Canadian acute care hospitals experience an adverse event.
o 1 in 13 adult patients admitted to a Canadian hospital encounter an adverse event.
o 1 in 19 adults will potentially be given the wrong medication or wrong medication dosage.
o 37% of adverse events are "highly" preventable.
o 24% of preventable adverse events are related to medication error.
A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) indicated that nearly one quarter of Canadian adults (5.2 million people) reported that they, or a member of their family, had experienced a "preventable adverse event" (medical error).
Are Canadian Medical Malpractice Claims Different Than in the U. S.?
In a word; yes.
Lot's of people have read about large jury awards for personal injury claims in the United States. Sometimes the American jury awards seem to be out of proportion to the injury.
In Canada, court awards are much lower than awards for similar injuries from courts in the United States. Cases that might be successful in the U.S. are simply not economically feasible to pursue in Canada.
For example, the province of Nova Scotia also has some of the most conservative (lowest) awards in Canada for compensation for personal injury claims.
Role of the C.M.P.A.:
In Canada, most doctors are defended by a single organization, the Canadian Medical Protection Association (the C.M.P.A.).
According to a recent annual report, the C.M.P.A. has two point nine (2.9) BILLION DOLLARS in assets (money in the bank). The C.M.P.A. is able to use this money to hire the best experts and lawyers money can buy.
Many victims of serious medical errors cannot work, or have huge expenses for ongoing rehabilitation or medical care.
Against such overwhelming financial odds, Canadian victims of medical malpractice face an almost insurmountable challenge to obtain justice and fair compensation for their injuries.
Remember the Canadian Medical Association Journal study that determined that over 87,000 patients in Canada suffer an adverse event and as many as 24,000 people die each year due to medical errors? That's more than 100,000 potential malpractice claims in Canada every year!
But between 2002 and 2006 the C.M.P.A. reports only 5246 lawsuits were filed against doctors in Canada: only about a 1000 claims per year.
In other words, out of 100,000 potential claims 99% of potential medical malpractice victims never even filed a claim!
The C.M.P.A. reports it's success rate in defending claims brought against doctors. More than 3800 of the 5000 claims were dismissed or abandoned because the victim or his or her family quit or ran out of money, or died before trial.
Some Frightening Statistics:
o The C.M.P.A. settled only 229 claims out of court (usually after several years of litigation and just before trial).
o Of the 577 cases that went to trial only 121 resulted in a verdict for the Plaintiff victim. In other words, only twenty percent (20%) of medical malpractice plaintiffs actually won their trial.
o For the few victims who won at trial, the median damage award was only $95,500.00.
o In 2006 the C.M.P.A. spent 72 million dollars on legal fees to defend doctors across Canada.
o Of more than 5000 lawsuits filed against doctors, only two percent (2%) resulted in trial verdicts for the victim.
In other words, 98% of Canadian medical malpractice victims never receive a penny in compensation!
The odds against medical malpractice victims are almost overwhelming. If you think you or a family member has suffered an injury or loss as a result of medical malpractice it is critical to get proper advice. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can tell you if you have a potential claim and can advise you what you need to prove to have the best chance of winning your case.
John McKiggan is a medical malpractice lawyer from Halifax, Nova Scotia and a founding partner in the law firm Arnold Pizzo McKiggan. Mr. McKiggan has been representing victims of medical malpractice for 18 years.