How Often Does Medical Malpractice Happen in Canada?

by John McKiggan

How often does medical malpractice happen in Canada?

The short answer is that the law suits that are filed in court are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medical malpractice claims in Canada.

Medical malpractice claims in Canada tend to get a lot of attention in the media. Everyone is concerned about the quality of health care that they receive, and claims that raise concerns about problems with medical care naturally get reported in the newspapers or on television.

Most Malpractice Victims Don’t File Law Suits

But the fact is that most victims of medical malpractice never file a law suit.

More Than Half of Medical Mistakes “Preventable”

A famous research study conducted by Harvard Medical School determined that more than half of all injuries caused by medical management (in other words, not caused by the patient’s initial injury or disease) were preventable, and another quarter of those incidents were caused by negligence.

24,000 Canadians Die Every Year

In May 2004 the Canadian Medical Association published: “The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence of adverse events in hospital patients in Canada”. The report confirmed findings of similar studies in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Denmark and New Zealand.

The Canadian study concluded:

• As many as 24,000 patients die each year due to “adverse events” (code words for a bad result).

• 87,500 patients admitted annually to Canadian acute care hospitals experience an adverse event.

• 1 in 13 adult patients admitted to a Canadian hospital encounter an adverse event.

• 1 in 19 adults will potentially be given the wrong medication or wrong medication dosage.

• 37% of adverse events are “highly” preventable.

• 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).

Only a Few Law Suits Filed Each Year

According to the annual report of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (the CMPA), the group that defends most lawsuits filed against doctors in Canada, about a 1000 legal actions are commenced against doctors in Canada each year.

But the Canadian Medical Association says that 24,000 people die each year due to medical errors and more than 87,000 patients in Canada experience an adverse event.

Why Don’t More Canadians File Medical Malpractice Claims?

So why aren’t their more medical malpractice law suits in Canada?

Part of it certainly has to do with the difference in attitude between Canadians and Americans when it comes to litigation. We just aren’t as likely to file a lawsuit as Americans are.

It certainly isn’t because the CMPA is settling the claims of victims before they file their lawsuits. Their annual report shows they settle less than 500 claims per year.

Is it because they can’t find a lawyer willing to take on a complicated and expense medical malpractice claim? Perhaps. Medical malpractice claims are complicated, time consuming, risky and very expensive. There are few lawyers willing to devote the time and money it takes to prosecute medical malpractice claims.

I believe that a bigger problem is that most patients don’t know they have been the victim of negligence!

There are no national standards regarding the disclosure of medical errors to patients.

Related posts:

Majority of Infant Deaths Due to Medical Error Preventable

Medical Malpractice Kills More Than 24,000 Canadians Each Year

Overworked Nurses Causing Medication Errors

If you are looking for a Nova Scotia Medical Malpractice Lawyer you can contact me for a free copy of my book: The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada: Why 98% of potential medical malpractice victims never receive a penny in compensation.

If you believe you or a family member believe you may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice you can contact me through this blog, or call me toll free at 1-888-647-7201.

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