A patient who is considering undergoing a surgical procedure at a particular hospital, or considering having a procedure done by a certain physician, probably wants to know if the doctor or hospital has made any serious mistakes. Hospitals and care providers, on the other hand, have a vested interest in keeping their errors secret so patients still choose them for medial procedures.
Throughout most of the United States, hospitals and physicians are able to buy the silence of many patients who are harmed by serious medical errors. 9 Investigates looked at the practice of confidential settlements in which hospitals pay out millions of dollars to prevent patients from becoming aware of frequent mistakes and substantial risks to patient health.
Atlanta Medical Malpractice Cases Kept Secret Due to Confidentiality Clauses
An Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer frequently helps patients to settle negligence claims after the patients sustain serious injuries due to medical negligence. Many people who have been harmed by doctors are experiencing serious health issues and do not want to go to court. Settling is an attractive alternative and patients who get fair compensation will usually agree when a hospital attaches a confidentiality condition.
A confidentiality clause means the patient is unable to talk about the malpractice, the injuries that occurred, and the resulting settlement. A patient is effectively silenced by signing the confidentiality clause and cannot share his or her story or tell others what happened. This means other patients who are considering which hospital or healthcare provider to trust do not have the information they need about past problems other patients have had with a surgeon, doctor, or care facility.
Because confidentiality clauses adversely impact transparency and can make hospitals less safe for patients, some states have moved to preclude the use of confidentiality clauses in malpractice settlements and healthcare negligence cases. South Carolina, California and Florida already have bills in place precluding the use of confidentiality clauses in certain cases. North Carolina is considering a bill in which the judge would be given the opportunity to have the final say about whether a confidentiality clause should be permitted in a healthcare case.
Other locations throughout the U.S. may also wish to consider limiting the ability of care providers to force victims of negligence to keep quiet about their stories. 9 Investigates interviewed one patient who had reached a settlement agreement with a hospital facility 20 years ago, after she had a partial hysterectomy and a surgical sponge was left inside her stomach. She was later told it was an abdominal mass and sent back to her same surgeon to remove the “mass.She signed paperwork indicating a mass would be removed, and was not told that the mass was a sponge.
Multiple surgeries were necessary to correct resulting health problems and she suffered from ongoing pain and complications. Because she settled her case and signed a confidentiality agreement, she still cannot talk about the settlement and was not able to talk about what she was enduring over the past two decades. She’s now speaking out in favor of the North Carolina bill limiting confidentiality clauses.
Every patient deserves to be informed about what a doctor and hospital’s past track record of malpractice is. Victims who suffer harm because of medical negligence also deserve full compensation and should not have to give up their right of free speech to get it.
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