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Mother of infant who died filed malpractice lawsuit for answers

When children are born with low birth weights in Michigan, a risk of serious complications exists. Fortunately, due to advancements in medical care, this risk is much lower than it once was and the survival rate is about 96 percent. Infants do still succumb to complications associated with low birth weights in some cases, although this can sometimes be prevented by a timely diagnosis of certain conditions and effective treatment.

In a case back in 2004, a woman gave birth prematurely to twin girls, and one of them later died due to an intestinal complication. The twins' parents were stonewalled when they tried to find out what happened from their doctors, and it took a medical malpractice lawsuit for them to find out the truth.

In 2011, a jury found that one doctor and one nurse practitioner were negligent in caring for the infant, and the family was awarded a multimillion dollar settlement. A medical expert witness had reportedly reviewed the infant's medical files, and concluded that her death was preventable as the intestinal disorder occurred due to poor medical care, prompting the lawsuit.

The family in this case filed a lawsuit, because, like many families affected by medical malpractice, they wanted answers. Outsiders often think that medical malpractice lawsuits are all about money, but in fact plaintiffs often simply want answers. They want to know what went wrong, how it could have been prevented and how to stop something similar from happening again. In many cases, hospitals and medical professionals will not answer such questions unless they are in a court of law.

A recent report in The Boston Globe suggests that if doctors and hospitals were more forthcoming and apologetic about mistakes, they may be able to avoid some malpractice claims. Additionally, admitting mistakes might lead to better information and education surrounding medical errors. Currently, it does remain very difficult here in Michigan for people to get answers from their doctors when something goes wrong. In many cases, it may be necessary for victims and their loved ones to seek legal counsel.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Medical malpractice: Why is it so hard for doctors to apologize?" Darshak Sanghavi, Jan. 27, 2013

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