Medical malpractice impacts Boston residents regardless of occupation or income level. Even veterans in the Boston area are injured from hospital negligence and recently released statistics from the Veterans' Administration reveal the extent of malpractice litigation against the local VA Medical Center.
The database is now public due to a nonprofit government watchdog organization called The Project on Government Oversight. The organization filed a Freedom of Information act request to secure the information on the number of malpractice claims against VA medical centers across the nation. There were approximately 12,000 claims over a 19 year period, which is just under two malpractice claims a week.
Claims against the Boston VA Medical Center include several "failure to diagnose" claims in which a doctor erroneously told a patient that the there was no medical issue. One of these claims was settled for $5,000. Another plaintiff was paid $7,500 for a failure to warn claim. That plaintiff alleged that the VA failed to properly manage a psychiatric patient which resulted in violence.
The Boston VA Medical Center also paid $110,000 for a claim based on failure to diagnose and treat a condition. And $350,000 was awarded in a wrongful death suit based on failure to diagnose.
Veterans were at one time unable to file medical malpractice claims against the Boston Medical Center. Congress provided relief for VA Hospital malpractice patients in 1946 with the Federal Tort Claims Act which allows individuals to recover damages from the federal government based on medical malpractice of federally employed doctors and medical staff.
One VA human resource manager said that even with a relatively low malpractice rate and high patient satisfaction scores, a VA Medical Center should continually seek to improve patient outcomes and avoid dangerous situations that may lead to malpractice.
"But even with the best health care system in the world, you are going to have instances of malpractice," the manager added.
Source: The Post-Standard, "Syracuse VA Medical Center's malpractice claims total $2 million over 19 years," James T. Mulder, 6/2/11