At at time in our society when public marches bring to the forefront progress we need to make on a variety of important issues, one march is of the more the silent type. That is the march toward increasing transparency following medical injuries, which are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. More and more hospitals are signing up for disclosure programs such as those created by the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution following Medical Injury (MACRMI). I have been proud to be the Massachusetts Bar Association’s representative on this Alliance for several years. I have been pleased with how receptive this Alliance and its associated hospitals have been to the concept of involving an attorney on behalf of the patient early on. They recognize it is an imperative that is both moral and efficient. The patient has the security of an advocate and counselor in her corner in achieving appropriate compensation. The hospital and insurer see the attorney as someone who can facilitate a productive resolution by advising his client of the risks of rejecting a reasonable offer and choosing protracted litigation.
Nevertheless, many remain skeptical, which is unfortunate. Still too many doctors and insurers fall back on the old “deny and defend” mentality to avoid accountability. Still too many lawyers think that suing first, asking questions later, is the best approach. Neither tactic is beneficial to the person who matters most in these circumstances, the patient.
Recently, the Washington Post wrote an article confirming the benefits and challenges of apologies and disclosures following medical errors. As I stated in the article, attorneys provide very important roles in helping patients to move on with their lives by achieving fair compensation as soon as practicable. But in my experience, good attorneys can help both sides navigate through the turbulent emotional waters that often impede just resolution.
So as time marches on, so do we. And we hope many more will join us so that for every fight we win against something like cancer, we don’t lose another to preventable medical errors.