Doc: Empower patients in decision-making to reduce medical errors


by: Paige Minemyer

When a baseball injury ended his surgical career, Lawrence Schlachter, M.D., decided he wanted to continue working for patients. So he went to law school and now represents patients as a medical malpractice attorney.

Over his years both in the operating room as a neurosurgeon and in the courtroom, Schlachter has seen trends emerge in the causes of malpractice and medical error and how they are handled by providers. He’s compiled his experiences both in the field of medicine and the field of law into a book titled Malpractice that’s due out early next year.

Schlachter said he was struck by recent study data from The BMJ that suggests medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—responsible for as many as 250,000 deaths per year—and said that those figures validate what he’s experienced in 15 years of law practice. And, he said, experts suggest that for every medical mistake that is litigated, at least 10 are brushed under the rug and patients never hear about the errors.

One of the key problems, Schlachter said, is poor communication, both between doctors and between doctors and patients.

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