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Bullying in medical hierarchy can put patients at risk for harm

Bullying is a major issue in current events. Much of the focus has surrounded students and social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, which are popular amongst this generation of Americans. It may be where much of the focus lies, but bullying isn't an isolated occurrence particular only to the lives of school-aged kids.

Adult-level bullying can cause real harm too. Many of the readers of our blog are probably familiar with the recent bullying scandal that has altered the careers of a few athletes in the National Football League. But why are we talking about bullying in a New Haven medical malpractice law blog? Because bullying in the medical field can actually put patients at serious risk for harm.

How does bullying affect patient care? An atmosphere of bullying can cause a breakdown in communication, which is vital in an industry where every decision could mean life or death.

Guess what a recent survey found was the "number-one cause for medication errors, delays in treatment, and surgeries at the wrong site" and "the second leading cause of operative mishaps, postoperative events, and fatal falls" over a 10-year period? Our readers can probably see where this is going; it was communication, said the Joint Commission report.

Just how prevalent is this bullying that is based on medical hierarchy? A UCLA study found that 85 percent of all third-year medical students had been subjected to bullying.

The entire situation begs the question, "could allowing an atmosphere of bullying be considered hospital negligence?" Does one have to even go that far in the line of causal analysis for medical malpractice liability?

The harms mentioned above, like wrong-site surgeries and medication errors, are the basis of many medical malpractice cases. Those patients that suffer harm of this type or any other should consult with an attorney to determine if they may have a viable claim for damages.

Source: Physicians New Digest, "'Great surgeons' who bully med students are often bad doctors," Alan Lyndon, Jan. 30, 2014

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