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Lawsuit confidentiality agreements may undermine patient safety

Thankfully, serious errors are rare in the modern hospital system; many individuals in the Cumberland and Fayetteville area may never be affected by a therapeutic oversight. Unfortunately however, some medical professionals do make accidental mistakes or behave in a careless or inattentive manner while they are at work. Negligence in a medical environment can have very serious consequences for patients, some of whom can experience complications and can go on to require long-term care as a result of doctor errors.

A recent interview with the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Patient Safety revealed the potential downside of so called "secret settlements" made between businesses and consumers. Manufacturers, medical establishments and many other entities frequently make confidentiality agreements a part of any out-of-court lawsuit settlement process.

If they sign the agreement, compensation recipients are legally barred from speaking about the circumstances of the case. This effectively renders them unable to warn others about the potential dangers of a product or the standard of care in a particular hospital.

When the coalition director's son, 6 at the time, was admitted to a North Carolina hospital with croup, he failed to improve and died of oxygen deprivation. The woman subsequently filed a malpractice lawsuit against the facility and her son's attending physicians.

Lawyers for the mother allegedly found out that an employee at the establishment had previously voiced concerns about medical safety issues. Instead of agreeing to the terms of a confidentiality agreement and settling out of court, the coalition director chose to preserve her First Amendment rights and warn others about the potential dangers.

While it is uncommon, hospital negligence is still a possibility during any in-patient stay. Misdiagnosis, errors by medical staff and a poor standard of care are just a few of the many issues addressed by legitimate lawsuits filed in the United States each year. Individuals who believe they have been the victims of irresponsible treatment -- as well as family members of deceased patients -- may be able to obtain compensation for their experiences. While it cannot turn back the clock, reparations do create financial buffer zones, which often allow people the time they need to recover from injuries, or from the deaths of loved ones.

Source: ABC11, "Should NC limit secret court settlements?," Steve Daniels, Feb. 21, 2013

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Lawsuit confidentiality agreements may undermine patient safety | Britton Law, P.A.