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Hospital negligence: where to draw the line?

Hospitals are largely seen as symbols of reviving health, physical or mental recovery and even hope. Yet when statistics begin to show that many hospitals fail to follow correct procedures and patients' wishes, this symbol can transform into one of fear. In Maryland, a number of recent cases have, unfortunately, pointed toward medical malpractice and general hospital negligence. Who, many Maryland natives ask, is to blame, and what can be done about this serious issue?

Statistics are recently revealing the shocking incidents many patients face upon receiving treatment at certain hospitals. The Baltimore Sun covers one such incident, but also shows that hospital administrators in the Baltimore area hope to see more doctors immediately admitting fault in the case of errors. When doctors immediately address issues, hospitals are better able to work out compensation plans and cover medical bills without involvement of the court. However, experts in the area warn that such changes in the law could leave patients in a vulnerable position, and accuse the proposal an attempt to keep malpractice cases out of court and away from juries. Furthermore, doctors ask patients in such situations to agree to the arrangement while recovering, where patients are not always in the best states to make serious decisions or may not be familiar with their legal rights.

The New York Times also reports on instances of hospital negligence and the degree to which hospitals should be held accountable. The Times reveals the alarming fact that physicians and hospitals have grown accustomed to the threat of lawsuits when they fail to save a patient's life -- some even face lawsuits for failing to let a patient die. Patients ideally state wishes clearly before any major, potentially life-threatening procedure, and lawsuits around the country claim that health care providers disregarded or overrode advance directives, resuscitating people whose instructions stated not to. Although such efforts to save life may come with good intentions, courts have increasingly accepted that unwanted life is also a harm. More recently, hospitals urge patients to put their end-of-life wishes in writing.    


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