The initial impression of a medical malpractice settlement is to recognize professional error and strive for improvements in patient care. Some research suggests, however, that the healthcare provider's reputation may be an unspoken priority as well.
According to a study in which the settlements of a Texas health system were reviewed, healthcare providers that were involved in a malpractice claim usually included some type of nondisclosure clause in the terms of the settlement with the patient. The majority of the claims examined dictated that the patient involved was not to disclose the settlement amount or other details regarding the agreement. Some agreements denied the patient the option of acknowledging the settlement at all. The researchers seem to think this indicates a general discomfort that the healthcare providers have with the public being aware of the medical error that occurred. In fact, 9 percent of the cases included the doctors and hospital in the nondisclosure clause in addition to the patient.
The researchers involved in the study suggest that issues regarding nondisclosure should be addressed on a case by case basis. Claims that result in agreements that prohibit the patient from consulting with regulatory bodies in the interest of preventing further patient harm seems objectionable, say the researchers. The limited disclosure of details regarding a malpractice incident will not likely be enough to inform potential patients of a hospital's malpractice history. Some malpractice cases occur with an unlikely probability of reoccurring, or steps may have been taken to remedy the problematic circumstances that caused the injury that prompted the malpractice suit.
Medical malpractice cases tend to be complex from a legal standpoint. A patient that feels that a professional error has caused an injury may want to have an attorney review the details of the case before determining what course of action will be most beneficial.