Do No Harm: The Origin and Evolution Of Medical Malpractice Laws
The history of medicine goes back thousands and thousands of years. The intersection of law and medicine goes back quite some time, too. In fact, some of the earliest written laws govern the practice of medicine. In the 19th and 20th centuries, law books put a heavy emphasis on doctors and their profession.
One of the oldest writings ever discovered is Hammurabi’s Code. It dates back to 1794 B.C.—nearly 4,000 years ago. Hammurabi’s Code contains 282 laws. One section in the Code mentions consequences for medical mistakes. The Code states that a doctor should be punished if a patient is harmed.
The Hippocratic Oath, perhaps one of the better known ancient medical texts, dates back to between the 5th and 3rd century B.C. Hippocrates, who lived in ancient Greece, is considered by many to be the father of Western medicine. Although the Hippocratic Oath has taken on many forms since Hippocrates’ time, the basic premise remains the same: “Do no harm.” New doctors still take a version of the oath today as they set out on their careers.
The first known medical malpractice case dates back to 1794. The plaintiff argued that a doctor promised to skillfully perform an operation. Sadly, the plaintiff’s wife died because of the operation. The plaintiff prevailed in the lawsuit.
By the 19th century, there was a small but noticeable increase in medical malpractice claims throughout the United States. In the late 20th century several large, high profile settlements were obtained in egregious medical malpractice cases. Word began to spread that it was possible for patients to take on their doctors and hospitals and to hold them financially accountable when they “do harm.” The little guy could sometimes actually prevail over the big guys.
Doctors, hospitals, and — most of all — malpractice insurance companies did not like what was happening. They spent incredible sums of money lobbying for state and national laws to limit malpractice suits, so that they could escape responsibility for their actions and save money. Unfortunately, many of those laws were enacted. Predictably, patient care suffered – and continues to suffer — as a result.
Today, there are all kinds of laws governing how, when, and who can bring a medical malpractice claim. Medical Malpractice has become one of the most difficult areas of law to practice, and one of the most difficult types of trials to win. But, that does not mean you shouldn’t bring suit. You just need to make sure that you hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney to fight for you, one that knows the ins and outs of medical malpractice litigation.
At The Eisen Law Firm, we take medical negligence very seriously. Our Ohio medical malpractice attorneys concentrate solely on medical malpractice cases. We represent clients in all types of medical malpractice claims and work hard to obtain favorable results for you and your family. To schedule a free consultation with our experienced attorneys, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.