Nancy Collins, PhD, RDN, LD, FAPWCA, FAND
Most lawsuits start not because of poor medical care but because families believe promises were made and broken and they are angry.
If you speak to any health care attorney about the proliferation of lawsuits against hospitals, nursing homes, and health care providers (HCPs) over the last decade or so, you will engage in a conversation peppered with a variety of legal terms. These may include breach of duty, negligence, malpractice, wrongful death, statutory standard of care, or even criminal culpability. It is important to understand that these are formal words with specific legal meanings, and at least a few of them appear on every plaintiff complaint as the reason for the lawsuit.
This is in sharp contrast to every deposition I have ever read from a plaintiff—usually the surviving spouse or child/children of the deceased. These family members never use legal jargon. Instead, they use emotional terms that reveal the true reason they are suing. Unless the family member works in the medical field, they rarely criticize the actual medical care but rather express great sadness with the personal care and the way they were treated. Plaintiffs frequently remark about the lack of caring they felt in health care. It is these words that we must focus on if we are to understand the patient perspective and thereby improve patient satisfaction.