Medical Malpractice Prevention Topic of Seminar

By Knapschaefer, Johanna | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 29, 1989 | Go to article overview
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Medical Malpractice Prevention Topic of Seminar

Knapschaefer, Johanna, THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prevention of medical malpractice has become a leading concern for the legal and medical community in Oklahoma City following a host of court decisions involving malpractice.

Doctors from across Oklahoma, attorneys and judges will examine ethical and legal issues of heart disease in an evening seminar on Monday at the Marriott Hotel in Oklahoma City.

"To my knowledge this is the first seminar of its kind in the nation to specifically address cardiology," said Dr. Sandy Sanbar, Oklahoma City cardiologist and internist and president of American College of Legal Medicine, a professional organization.

The seminar is being sponsored by the college and Baptist Medical Center, and has been approved by Physicians Liability Insurance Co. and the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

"There are legal implications for every decision a doctor makes whether dealing with a terminally-ill patient or deciding when an organ can be harvested for transplant," Sanbar said.

"It is more important than ever before that physicians learn to protect themselves while caring for their patients," Sanbar said.

A number of landmark court decisions in Oklahoma have dramatically increased the risk of malpractice suits against physicians, forcing doctors to take preventative measures. Sanbar said one decision rendered by the Oklahoma Supreme Court last year eliminated limits to the amount of compensatory damages allowed in many malpractice cases. In the decision, Sanbar said the state's high court struck down a 1976 statute of limitation that limited cause of action for medical-related suits to recovery of medical costs in cases filed more than three years after the medical problem occurred.

Another decision in the July 1987 McKellips case changed the Doctrine of Loss of a Chance of Recovery or Survival by allowing a party to sue for malpractice, even when there is a less than 50 percent chance of a patient's survival, Sanbar said. Prior to the McKellips case, the plaintiff could only sue if a patient's chances for survival was greater than 50 percent.

The suit involved Reverend Allan David McKellips, who was rushed to the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa suffering from chest pain. A doctor diagnosed his condition as gastritis and sent him home. Two hours later he suffered a heart attack and died that night.

In this landmark case, McKellips wife recovered more than $1 million in punitive damages, Sanbar said. She held that her husband's chances of survival would have been significantly improved if the patient were properly treated.

At the seminar, past president of the American Heart Association Dr.Robert A. Kloner will head a distinguished panel in a discussion of actual malpractice cases involving physicians.

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