Most residents of western New York would be astounded to learn that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. These same people may also be astounded to learn that the number actions against doctors has declined by almost 60% from April to June. Emergency license suspensions declined by the almost unbelievable number of 85%. Why did these decline happen?
Understanding the decline
The reasons for the decline in disciplinary and civil actions against physicians was apparently caused by several pedestrian factors. First, most courts were closed during various periods of the pandemic’s spread, and the closure of the courts prevented many actions from proceeding. Also, Gov. Cuomo gave hospitals and doctors limited immunity from any claims relating to treating patients for COVID-19. Another reason for the decline is the difficulty of treating people who have been sickened by the virus. A final reason is the unwillingness of medical boards to suspend or restrict medical licenses because of the urgent need for more physicians.
The effect of the decline
Some observers of the medical scene blame a “perfect storm” for reducing the number of physician complaints. The number of doctors has been reduced, doctors are strained by the onslaught of the pandemic, and patients are sicker, thus requiring a greater volume of medical attention.
What patients can do
Despite the unusual conditions of practicing medicine under the umbrella of COVID-19, doctors still make unnecessary and harmful errors in their treatment of patients that are in no way related to the virus. Anyone who believes that they have been harmed by a physician’s error should consult a lawyer with experience in handling medical malpractice claims for an evaluation of the evidence and advice about the wisdom of seeking damages from the health care profession who is involved.