Medical malpractice becomes prevalent issue

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Lloyd Messam, 39, remembers the day he lost his wife. Staff Sgt. Joann Messam was 35 when she died after having a hysterectomy on the Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina.

The cause of death was attributed to medical malpractice. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

This fact became a sad reality a few days after Messam’s wife went under the knife.

Messam said the surgeon was confident in performing the operation and had assured him and his wife that everything would be fine.

“My wife and I were told that the doctor had performed the procedure numerous times,” Messam said.

According to Messam, the doctor made a fatal mistake although he had perform the procedure several times before.

“The doctor accidentally cut her intestines, which caused an infection to spread throughout her body,” Messam said.

“Eventually her body began to shut down, leading to heart failure only a few days after surgery.”

Because Messam and his wife were on active duty he could not file a lawsuit.

The Army contracts that if injury or death occurs while on active duty, then individuals may not sue the government.

Messam said he has no knowledge of the doctor’s whereabouts, but that he is no longer employed at the hospital on the Army base.

In order to prevent deadly mistakes such as this one, some students said that patients should be aware of their doctor’s medical background.

Simone Headlam, 18, a freshman physical therapy student from Riverdale, Ga. expressed her fears of medical malpractice.

“I would be afraid to go the doctor’s office if I knew he or she has fallen in the category of medical malpractice.”

Catherine Toomer, 38, a family physician in Bainbridge, Ga., said medical malpractice should not be taken lightly.

While malpractice suits are sometimes called for, Toomer said that patients often sue doctors for the wrong reasons.

“Sometimes patients do not sue doctors for malpractice when there’s truly a problem,” she said. “Instead, patients sue doctors who do nothing wrong.”

Toomer said there are times patients mistake side effects as medical malpractice.

“Just because there is a negative effect doesn’t mean the doctor did something wrong. It could be how the body reacts to the procedure.”

“What most people think is medical malpractice, isn’t.”It’s wrong,” Toomer said.

“Incompetence should not be tolerated when malpractice is the outcome.”