Gays are at a disadvantage in malpractice cases. Does this affect medical care? Some think so:

According to Langen, the hospital said Spicehandler died of an embolism. But he said no one was attending Spicehandler at the time of his death, and Langen questioned the care he received.

But unlike a married heterosexual spouse, Langen may not be able to sue for medical malpractice in New York State.

Langen and his case in New York are not unique. Several cases around the country raise the question of whether gay patients are at greater risks for poor medical care in hospitals because there may be no one who can sue on behalf of the patient in cases of alleged malpractice.

It’s ridiculous to think that doctors lower their standard of care based on whether their patients have the right to sue.

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  • Anonymous

    Why is that ridiculous? Doctors claim they are more comprehensive in their treatment and are more careful about documenting their care because of the fear of lawsuits, so why wouldn’t the reverse be true if they got their wish of immunity?

    Although the parents of the person still have the right to file suit, so it’s a silly claim in the first place. But the partner would not have any claim or right of recovery.

    CJD

  • SarahW

    Huh? So, why isn’t it ridiculous to think that doctor’s change the care they give when patients have a *right* to sue? Doesn’t that idea get put forward here on a fairly regular basis?

  • Kevin

    To be clear – I believe that many doctors routinely give “more than the standard” care when faced with a threat of a lawsuit (i.e. defensive medicine).

    However, I challenge you to find a doctor who would give “less than the standard” care to a patient who could not sue them.

    Perhaps I’m naive.

    Kevin

  • Anonymous

    That’s a challenge no one can win. It’s about like a challenge to find a plaintiff’s lawyer who will tell you he/she files “frivolous” lawsuits.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    Assumiong that gays receive treatment that is below the standard of care, I am more inclined to think that it is due to prejudice, bias, preconceived
    notion of their pesonality and lifestyle, rather than not fearing lawsuits. There are a few studies on women, minorities – blacks and Hispanics – not receiving the standard of care with regard to treatment of specific diseases and this has been attributed to prejudice. I have not come across similar studies on gays.

  • Anonymous

    “However, I challenge you to find a doctor who would give “less than the standard” care to a patient who could not sue them”

    I’ll admit it. Homeless people don’t receive “substandard care” because they can’t sue; they receive less defensive care. I’m much less likely to CT scan a drunk who comes in daily after falling down drunk, then scan a teenager who bumped his head playing soccer. The drunk is MUCH MORE LIKELY to have a brain bleed. But I can’t miss a head bleed on a teenager; I don’t have enough malpractice insurance to cover it. All my colleagues practice the same. I don’t know anyone who’s been sued by a homeless drunk.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous, you must not have much medical malpractice coverage. Which, given your risk assessment skills, is a bad idea.

    If you don’t have enough insurance to cover a malpractice case involving a teenager, who will have no lost wages, no family to support, etc., then you certainly don’t have enough to cover the person most likely to result in a high verdict. That is, the 35 year old with children in a high paying job whose economic losses will be in the multimillions.

  • Anonymous

    Kevin, you’ll find this post from the Healthy Policy Blog interesting, at least if the defensive medicine question still holds some fascination for you:

    http://healthypolicy.typepad.com/blog/2006/01/on_the_defense_.html#more

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    “If you don’t have enough insurance to cover a malpractice case involving a teenager, who will have no lost wages, no family to support, etc., then you certainly don’t have enough to cover the person most likely to result in a high verdict.”

    Oh, C’mon, you suck as a lawyer if you can’t get six or seven figures out of a tearful jury when a teenager is unfortunate enough to have a bad outcome. As the saying goes, when someone young dies, someone’s gotta pay. You guys High-Low everything these days anyway, right?

  • Anonymous

    I really hope your understanding of medicine is better than your understanding of the law. Are you the anonymouse who is getting out of medicine?

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    I was a resident at St. Vincent’s in 2002 when this man died. It was an awful thing, and I remember everyone feeling terrible. However, I take issue with the claim that he was not “attended” at the time of his death. St. Vincent’s is a teaching hospital, and residents and attendings are assigned to all cases, so everyone is “attended.”

    At St. Vincent’s a large portion of our patients were gay (as are a large portion of our residents and attending physicians) by virtue of its location in Greenwich Village. There is no way that any of the residents I worked with would give sub-standard care to someone because they were gay.

    PE’s happen after traumas, especially after long bone fractures. Tragic, but true. Not every tragedy can be blamed on the physician. I think in this case, the blame lies with the person who hit him with the car.

  • Anonymous

    This guy wasn’t discriminated against because he was gay. He was discriminated against because he likely had an O2 saturation of 100%, he was young, and he had a small risk of PE. Until it’s acceptable (and there’s money)for us to spend a million bucks on everyone who walks into a hospital, to rule EVERYTHING out, we will continue to miss needles in haystacks. And pre-med failures who call themselves lawyers will continue to copulate off our butts.

  • chuck

    Tragic of course. Unfortunately, being “attended to” probably couldn’t have changed anything. Once or twice a week someone dies right in front of me while I am “attending” them and treating them. Sometimes passage to the “white light” just can’t be stopped

  • Greg P

    OK, here’s a suggestion:
    Wherever you go, whatever you do, threaten to sue — the restaurant, the grocery, your bank, your boss, your employees, your car dealer, the hotel you’re staying at on vacation, your parents, your children.

    I’m sure you will get nothing but the very best treatment, and in the process get the reputation you deserve.

  • Anonymous

    unlike bankers, car dealers, or waitresses, doctors have the power to conceal their errors. it is very difficult to get objective information about doctor’s abilities, performance, or record. thus, only the liability system (and a lesser extenet, professional pressure) keeps them honest.

    As for the gay-stuff, of course, if you decrease the disincentive for negligence, you will get more of it.

    That, kevinmd is shocked at the idea really reveals the facile view of themselves and human motivation doctors have. The factors that go into decisions are comples, and human actors don’t understand them. A doctor doesn’t have to consciously think–ah he’s gay, lower change of wrongful death suit–to in fact discriminate againt the gay, poor, and other groups less likely to sue.

  • Anonymous

    “reveals the facile view of themselves”

    Themselves? All doctors? All Who? Queers? Niggers? Kikes? You’re the one lumping “they” all together. All Doctors are alike? Are all what? Are all lawyers greedy selfish bastards? ‘You can’t trust “them”.’ You can fill in the “them” on your own. Can someone tell me how I can tell which of my patients are “gay” so I can discriminate against them? Kevin, tell me, do “Vietnamese” patients sue, I’d like to treat “them” differently?

  • Anonymous

    “A doctor doesn’t have to consciously think–ah he’s gay, lower change of wrongful death suit–to in fact discriminate againt the gay, poor, and other groups less likely to sue.”

    You really are clueless. The poor are precisely the ones most likely to sue. Just look at who buys your state’s lottery tickets. They are the same bedraggled group that try to hit the lawsuit lotto.

  • Anonymous

    “The poor are precisely the ones most likely to sue.”

    But I think the sodomites are trying to point out that the poor won’t offer as much of a jackpot for them (the lawyers) because their lost earnings (minimum wage, welfare) aren’t incentive enough for a lawyer to actually take the case. CJD would rather defend a gay stockbroker then a 40 year old who supports 3 kids by working at Walmart.

  • Anonymous

    yes–but who pushed the caps? doctors. they don’t want the very old, the very poor, and the very young from having recourse against the doctors who kill, maime, and injure them.

  • gasman

    In this matter they are no more ‘disadvantaged’ with regard to surrogates bringing suit on their behalf than any single, divorced, widowed person would be.

    If one is interested in seeking indirect suspicions for the remote possibility of a biased treatment then one is likely to find it if their glasses are so tinted.

    Even though I’m a white educated male I could, if I so chose, find evidences of unfair discrimination against me if that were my inclination.

  • Anonymous

    “yes–but who pushed the caps?” Doctors.

    Actually, patient advocacy groups are starting to push for caps, as they lose access to service as physicians in targeted specialties (OB, Neurosurgery) are getting fed up and quitting. And for you Sodomites who argue they’re not getting fed up, there are less neurosurgeons then hospitals now in Massachusetts, a capless state. The only group not pushing for caps is the Lawyers, but then again, do Drunk drivers support laws increasing sentences for drunk driving? Do Crack Addicts fight for longer sentencing for Cocaine Possesion?

  • Anonymous

    actually, my hater of homosexual activity, there is minimal evidence that caps are causing doctor shortages–most of the examples are from rural areas that likely wouldn’t have specialists.

    Further, there is NO evidence that a decrease in the number of doctors in any given area actually reduces healthy outcomes.

    Take gyns. Western Europe has 60% fewer gyns and has much better outcomes, less infant mortality. Why? midwives can do a better job in most instances.

    Ah, but you dirty filthy medical monopolists are so eager to protect yr turf,and buy that third lexis, that if it’s a choice between yr $ or health, $ wins.

    You and your kinds should be eliminated.

  • Anonymous

    “Actually, patient advocacy groups are starting to push for caps”

    If by “patient advocacy groups” you mean nonprofit fronts for insurers and the AMA, then you are correct!

  • DBR

    I’m not going to take issue with all of the misinformation here, nor the idealogical discussion about whether or not doctors discriminate….you’re all doing such a good job of beating up on each other….

    BUT….I’m really tired of hearing how children, teenagers, retired people, etc., can’t recover considerable damages in a medical liability case unless there are unlimited NON-economic damages…

    The lawyers out there know that ECONOMIC damages cover far more than lost wages and medical care. Experts testify in court to every QUANTIFIABLE loss a legitimately injured patient has or MAY HAVE in the future.

    A child, for instance, can be compensated for a lifetime’s worth of work if the child won’t be able to work, including benefits, retirement plan, etc, in addition to lifetime medical care and any other assistance, special devices or vehicles, physical therapy, etc., that child may need.

    Several years ago, the sister of Regis and Kelly’s “Kelly” (I can’t remember the sister’s name) received a $15 million award for a mistreated ankle injury, based on estimates of how much she would have earned if her “budding career” as an actress and model hadn’t been cut off by her injury. The key term here is “lost POTENTIAL wages.”

    The Olsen family of California was awarded $42 million, to be paid over their son’s lifetime, in ECONOMIC damages for birth injuries to their son – a California judge later reduced the ADDITIONAL $8 million the jury awarded in non-economic damages to California’s MICRA-mandated $250,000. The family never collected the whole $42 million because they chose a lump sum payment (never made public) over an annual high six-figure stipend that was to increase each year as the son approached 65, but the initial $42 million award was for ECONOMIC damages, and included what the child MIGHT HAVE EARNED had he not been injured at birth.

    A non-working mother can be compensated for all the things she may no longer be able to do as a result of someone’s negligence, i.e., child care, laundry, house cleaning, cooking, lawn work – because it’s possible to attach a monetary value to all those things. She can ALSO be compensated for potential wages she might have earned AFTER the children were grown and she either began or returned to a pre-children profession.

    An injured senior citizen can be compensated for round-the clock care, a new home that’s fitted out to handle an invalid, special vehicles, etc., in addition to medical care and whatever else he or she might need…one would assume that any retirement income would continue unaffected by a medical injury, so compensation for lost wages which would never have been earned is unlikely…although if the senior worked part-time for extra money or stimulation, that could be compensated as well.

    The family members of an injured person can be compensated for psychological counseling to help them deal with their loss. They can also be compensated for the time they spend CARING for their loved one…it’s all about how thoroughly the plaintiff’s lawyer determines whatever his or her client might need to be made as “whole as possible,” and there is a whole subset of economic and actuarial experts available to provide expert testimony as to the real economic value – present and FUTURE – of all of these things…

    The difference between ECONOMIC and NON-ECONOMIC damages is often deliberately blurred in this debate. Non-economic damages CANNOT, by their very nature, be quantified. That’s how and why juries come up with the staggering numbers we read about in the paper…they have nothing on which to base those kinds of damages but their own compassion, level of sympathy for the plaintiff, and their perception of what’s “fair.”

    OF COURSE, even unlimited ECONOMIC damages don’t FIX what’s been done to legitimately injured plaintiffs – nor do unlimited NON-economic damages. Is any amount of money adequate to compensate someone for the loss of a loved one? Of course it isn’t.

    But it’s very frustrating to hear folks who oppose reforms suggest that women, children, senior citizens, etc., are unable to collect ANYTHING in economic damages, or that victims will be limited to $250,000 for a lifetime of medical care or lost wages.(I’ve actually heard a lobbyist for a trial lawyer organization state how unfair it would be if a child who was made blind by a doctor’s negligence was only able to receive $250,000 for a lifetime of suffering, and then he pointed out that amount would only come to $3,800 a YEAR, for everything the child needed…) Bottom line is that’s just not legally accurate – in addition to being more than a little dishonest…

    DBR

  • Anonymous

    I think DBR needs a little education in the law. You must be able to prove economic damages. In most instances, it is very difficult to prove lost wages for a child. I don’t think anyone in the debate says children, women, the elderly can receive “nothing” in economic damages–they just receive less. Is that fair?

    Further, consider my favorite case. A urologist negligently burns with acid (in treating warts) a man’s penis rendering sexual intercourse permanently painful. No economic damages–only pain & suffering. Is 100K enuf to compensate.

  • Anonymous

    Donna, how do you say these things with a straight face?

    What self respecting defense lawyer is going to allow an estimate of economic damages for a child? It would be nothing more than pure speculation. Here’s an idea, why don’t we allow them to attribute economic loss based on the salary of the physician at fault?

    “Is any amount of money adequate to compensate someone for the loss of a loved one? Of course it isn’t.”

    No one disagrees with this statement. But does that mean it has no value? Or that the value should be fixed by legislators and lobbyists who know nothing about the relationship between the two? How is that a better solution?

    “they have nothing on which to base those kinds of damages but their own compassion, level of sympathy for the plaintiff, and their perception of what’s “fair.””

    Why is this so egregious? What else should they base it on? Would it be better to base the value of the loss on the claimed profit margins of insurers, as you advocate?

    “The family members of an injured person can be compensated for psychological counseling to help them deal with their loss.”

    This statement is incorrect in most states. These would be medical bills, and most states’ wrongful death statutes don’t allow someone to recover those specific damages. They can get general loss of consortium damages, however, and the evidence of counseling may be considered, but the balance of the bills will not be.

    “Several years ago, the sister of Regis and Kelly’s “Kelly” (I can’t remember the sister’s name) received a $15 million award for a mistreated ankle injury, based on estimates of how much she would have earned if her “budding career” as an actress and model hadn’t been cut off by her injury. The key term here is “lost POTENTIAL wages.”

    I realize urban legends are good for scaring the masses, but how about you list a case citation? Considering you don’t even know her name, it’s fair to say you probably don’t know much about the case other than what you got in some forwarded email. Did you review the basis for the plaintiff and defendant’s economist’s opinions?

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    Kind of like listing the case citation for the guy with the burned penis. Urban legands are just everywhere eh CJD too bad you just cite them when they suit your argument.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t cite that one, Anonymouse. And I think it was a hypothetical.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    “Further, consider my favorite case. A urologist negligently burns with acid (in treating warts) a man’s penis rendering sexual intercourse permanently painful. No economic damages–only pain & suffering. Is 100K enuf to compensate.”

    Doesn’t sound hypothetical to me bottom feeder. It does sound like an urban legend though. But hey why comment on it when it doesn’t serve your argument.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, if my agenda is arguing against caps, it does serve it.

    Apparently we can add reading to the list of things you need work on.

  • Anonymous

    Donna was correct – Kelly’s sister Linda did get a $15 million judgment as a result of an allegedly botched surgery on her foot which has left her walking with a limp for the rest of her life.

    The news reports don’t tell whether it was upheld on appeal, or what part was economic or non-economic. They do say she offered to settle for $2.4 million.

    My apologies for accusing you of spreading urban legends, DBR. However, the case still doesn’t support your point, as you don’t know what the basis of the award was.

    CJD

  • Anonymous

    “Western Europe has 60% fewer gyns and has much better outcomes, less infant mortality. Why? “

    Ok, genius, that would be because they don’t have a huge underclass of welfare “Crack Ho’s” screwing like rabbits and giving birth to drug addicted premies who stand little chance of survival irregardless of how many OB Gyns there are out there.

  • Anonymous

    “Apparently we can add reading to the list of things you need work on”

    Just like ethics and the business aspects of medicine is on the list that you need to work on bottom feeder.

  • Anonymous

    Stop calling lawyers “bottom feeders”. Haven’t you ever had a fish tank? Bottom feeders are useful and perform an important service to the community (the fish tank). Comparing a lawyer to a catfish is unfair, for the catfish) “Sodomite” is a much better term (my apologies to the more ethical rapists out there for the comaparison)

  • Anonymous

    For example, let’s use Matthew Garebedian, a well-known Boston Sodomite who makes a living suing the Boston Archdiocese. He’s made millions suing “on behalf” of church victims. A rare few of his clients have collected millions (His main client killed himself by overdosing on narcotics he bought the day he got his millions from the church). But all you see is millions of little old ladies in Massachusetts, who can’t go to church any more, because the Archdiocese closed their parish to pay for the settlement. And the church-run hospital system, Caritas, is near bankrupt, and at risk of closing, in a state where 100 hospitals have closed in the last ten years. All thanks to the sodomites.

  • Anonymous

    uhh . . . I think the sodomites were the priests, not the lawyers

  • Anonymous

    Priest = dead or incarcerated.

    Lawyer = Bigger boat in the Marina.

    Who’s the sodomite?

  • The Platypus

    How does sexual orientation even come up, let alone become a consideration in the care? It’s a ridiculous assumption. I know that where I work everybody is treated the same (unless of course they’re a sports celebrity, board member or descendant of the hospital’s founder). Also, I imagine it varies from state to state, but where I live a surviving family can sue. It doesn’t need to be a spouse.

    To the anonymous above who doesn’t scan homeless or alcoholics despite knowing their increased propensity to bleed, all I can say is “huh?”. They’ll sue you too. Right now there’s a $10 million lawsuit creeping through the courts after the state police shot and killed a homeless drunk. I’m sure his family hasn’t talked to him in decades but they smelled money and came out of the woodwork. I think Anonymous needs to sit down with the legal department.

  • Anonymous

    I;m the above anonymous. Where I work it;s a circus, We can’t scan everybody. We have to have some limits. When it gets busy you take more chances; we all do it. SO I throw out the drunks once they can walk, if they fall and hit there head outside, then maybe i’ll scan them. It’s just physically impossible to test everyone for everything in a city hospital or the system breaks down, So we all seem to discriminate against the homeless drunks. No choice.

  • Anonymous

    Umm Europes got about as big an underclass as the US,bigger in the former east block.