Medical law: suspected treatment errors: what patients can do

Anyone who has an operation or other treatment from doctors wants to alleviate their own symptoms and improve their health situation.

Medical law: suspected treatment errors: what patients can do

Anyone who has an operation or other treatment from doctors wants to alleviate their own symptoms and improve their health situation. But after some treatment, patients have the feeling that they were not only treated incorrectly, but that the doctor made a mistake. In 2022, almost 6,000 of their policyholders reported suspected treatment errors to Techniker Krankenkasse. From 2015 to 2019, there was a sharp increase of 76 percent in cases of suspected treatment errors among those insured by the health insurance fund. Since the corona pandemic, they have remained at the level of almost 6000 cases.

Techniker Krankenkasse considers it gratifying that the negative trend has not continued after 2019. "It is clear to us that these numbers can only be an indicator of the supply situation, because studies show that the number of unreported cases is significant. At the same time, we can only substantiate every third treatment error reported to us in the course of the review," said Christian, medical law expert at Techniker Krankenkasse Soltau. Most suspected cases are reported after surgical treatment.

Patients must be able to prove that a medical treatment error is to blame for the health consequences they have suffered. "Failures during an operation or treatment are not only a health catastrophe for the victims. Often the job and the economic existence are at stake," says Soltau. Victims of such treatment errors often have to prepare themselves for years of court proceedings.

Because: The liability insurance of doctors would often deliberately prolong court proceedings in order to use this tactic to put pressure on the victims to come to an agreement out of court. And so no longer have to go through the expensive and lengthy process. With such agreements, however, those affected threaten to make “lazy compromises”, according to the medical law expert at Techniker Krankenkasse. This example makes it clear that victims of treatment errors need staying power: The oldest case that Techniker Krankenkasse is currently handling dates from 2008.

But what can patients do if they think they have been the victim of a medical error?

If patients have been harmed by doctors because they made a mistake, they may be entitled to compensation and compensation for pain and suffering. However, the consumer center reports that patients themselves have to prove that they have suffered damage as a result of the error. To do this, patients should collect all medical records from the treating physicians.

Then your own health insurance company is the right address. There, patients can describe their suspicions and the health insurance company will advise those affected on how to proceed and how their health insurance company can offer specific support if they suspect a treatment error. The health insurance company then assesses the case based on the medical records.

If the health insurance company also sees a substantiated suspicion of a treatment error, the statutory health insurance company can commission an expert opinion from the medical service. Such an expert opinion is important for patients, as it is considered a professional assessment in a court hearing.

At the end of the process, the health insurance company must comment on the documents and evaluate the case of a patient who has reported a suspected treatment error. The consumer advice center points out that patients should always insist on a written document - even in cases in which no expert opinion has been requested from the medical service.

Patients who suspect that they have been the victim of a treatment error but do not want to go to court can also contact the state medical associations. There are arbitration boards and expert commissions there that are supposed to help clarify the suspicion.

The consumer advice center advises anyone who suspects that they have been the victim of an error in medical treatment to seek advice from a specialist lawyer for medical law.

Sources: Message from Krakenkasse technicians, consumer advice centre