How Hospitals Silence Medical Malpractice Cases and Protect Doctors Who Cause Harm

Published on June 25, 2024, by Wayne Parsons | Medical Malpractice

How Hospitals Silence Medical Malpractice Cases and Protect Doctors Who Cause Harm

Recently, NBC News released a stunning report on the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases involving publicly funded hospitals. The University of Washington and other public hospitals across the United States are under fire as they have required patients to sign these agreements as a condition of settling medical malpractice cases. While this practice is legal, many experts and watchdog groups have raised ethical and transparency concerns.

Not only do NDAs silence patients and their families, but they can also hide potential patterns of negligence and wrongdoing within these institutions. At Wayne Parsons Law Office, we know that accountability is a major factor in taking legal action against those parties.

When filing a medical malpractice claim, victims and their families want to hold neglectful practitioners responsible for those actions. However, if the details of their malpractice cases are hidden, their actions might lead to no consequences.

A Long List of Cases Shrouded in Secrecy

These instances have affected many individuals, including Ruby Blondell and her late husband, Douglas Roach. After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Roach discovered that a finding from a 2012 CT scan had not been communicated to him. This oversight delayed his diagnosis by five years. Due to their errors, the University of Washington settled the case for $5 million in 2018. However, officials requested that the couple sign an NDA accompanying the settlement. Unfortunately, it meant that the general public did not know the details of the case.

However, the University of Washington is not the only public health care facility under scrutiny. The University of Kansas Hospital Authority and the University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center have used NDAs to settle claims regarding medical errors. Recent lawsuits stemmed from fatal bacterial infections linked to faulty medical devices to a botched neurosurgical procedure that left a patient permanently brain damaged.

Legal and Ethical Concerns Associated With Having Patients Sign NDAs

Many legal experts argue that the use of NDAs in medical malpractice settlements at public hospitals needs to be re-examined. In some states, there has been a movement to ban the use of NDAs, especially in public interest cases. For example, California and Florida have enacted laws limiting the use of NDAs in certain scenarios. However, Washington state’s laws still allow public hospitals to continue enforcing these agreements.

Many have argued that these secret settlements prevent public awareness of medical errors. In turn, this hampers accountability but continues to enable harmful practices. Many more patients can become victims of these practices, unaware that their practitioners or health care facilities may have engaged in negligent practices.

Unfortunately, some institutions have used NDAs to silence their victims and avoid further investigations into their practices. Most of the time, state regulators will never investigate these allegations due to the false belief that the patient cannot file an additional complaint or that a medical malpractice lawsuit will automatically enforce that action.

Medical malpractice claims center on holding health care professionals responsible for their actions. When public hospitals use NDAs as part of the settlement practice, they do not have to admit to wrongdoing and can shield these cases from public scrutiny. Many times, this can result in uninvestigated claims and unaccounted patterns of malpractice.

Renewed Call for Reforms in the Law

Both affected patients and legal experts are calling for reforms in the laws. They want to prevent public hospitals from using NDAs to hide their medical mistakes. Since these institutions are funded by taxpayer money, they need to operate with greater accountability and transparency.

Public hospitals using NDAs in medical malpractice settlements is a troubling trend. These agreements protect institutions at the expense of patients’ silence, which erodes public trust in the health care sector.

A lack of transparency can lead to continued harm and, ultimately, no accountability on behalf of the negligent provider. These practices need to be reformed to make sure that public hospitals prioritize patient safety and transparency over secrecy.

At Wayne Parsons Law Office, we understand the grave concerns centering on signing an NDA in a medical malpractice case. If you have any questions about this practice or whether it can affect your claim, we are only a phone call away.