In another post to this Blog, I lamented both the bias against any plaintiff and the especial bias against any plaintiff suing a doctor or hospital for medical negligence:

Virginia’s not being on this list of “judicial hellholes” is no surprise to Virginia judges or the trial lawyers for the plaintiff and defense. Each of them knows that an injured plaintiff in Virginia has one hand tied behind his back and two strikes against him when he first comes to bat in court. Candidly, this does not apply to victims of medical malpractice in Virginia, who have two hands and two feet tied-up, and who can be seen limping-up to the plate and then simply heading back to the dugout without taking a swing.

In the January 2, 2007 issue of The New York Times , Jane Brody recounts the extent of the problem of medication errors in America:

Medication errors are among the most common medical mistakes, injuring or killing at least 1.5 million people a year and incurring at least $3.5 billion a year in extra hospital costs alone, according to a report issued in July by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. This was the institute’s second report on the subject, and the committee that compiled it stated that insufficient progress had been made since its first report, “To Err Is Human,” was issued in 1999.

If there are 1.5 million Americans every year being injured or killed by medication errors, logic tells us that this fate befalls many thousands of Virginians every year. Despite the plaintive cries of the insurers of doctors and hospitals that medical-malpractice verdicts are won and “won big” too often by injured plaintiffs, there are few medical-malpractice verdicts for patients in Virginia, and fewer still based upon medication errors.

This begs the facetious question in the title above, “Why are there no medication errors in Virginia?” The answer lies in the simple but stark difference between the frequent reality of medication errors and the infrequent reality of a jury’s holding a medical professional accountable.

The author of this New York Times article cited her own personal experience:

A similar error befell my father at a leading New York hospital. After weeks of intensive care following a massive heart attack, he was sent home with medication from the hospital pharmacy to prevent his body from rejecting his damaged heart. He was about to take the first pill when my mother noticed that the name on the vial was Mrs. Rosenberg, not Sidney Brody, and that it contained estrogen, not the prednisone my father needed.

If we want to make headway in making careless medication errors like this unacceptable, our jurors must be prepared to let go of the iconic worship of those who save us or make us feel better. Our jurors must simply be willing to hold these doctors and hospitals, like everyone else, to a standard of reasonable care. We expect our doctors and hospitals to treat us and our loved ones with reasonable care, and to be accountable for doing so. Should we accept anything less for our “brothers and sisters” in the community?

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