The terms negligence and malpractice are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two terms. A tort is a civil offense for which common law or statutory law provides remedies. Medical negligence is a type of tort, with compensatory damages (money) being the usual remedy.
An Australian survey of Australian doctors insured by Avant showed that 65% of those surveyed (299) had at some point been involved in a medical-legal problem. The two most common medical-legal problems were complaints to health agencies and compensation claims. The 1995 Australian Health Care Quality Study and the 1991 Harvard Medical Practice study analyzed data from iatrogenic injury and negligence lawsuits in Australia and the U.S. USA, respectively.
The previous study revealed that 16.6% of the 14,000 hospital admissions in New South Wales and South Australia related to an adverse event that caused a disability were due to medico-legal negligence. Of these, 51% of adverse events were considered preventable. This latest study revealed that adverse events occurred in 3.7% of the 30,121 hospitalizations in New York State in 1984, and that 27.6% of these adverse events were due to medico-legal negligence. Of these adverse events, 70.5% caused medium-term disability, 2.6% caused permanent disability, and 13.6% caused death.
These data underscore the urgent need for the work of this article.
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