Medical students take their first steps as interns each July, by beginning work at teaching hospitals all across the country. As with many other cities, Atlanta, Georgia, has a number of these institutions. Interns at teaching hospitals have very little experience in diagnosing and treating the illnesses and injuries of their new patients. This has become the basis of a long-standing joke among professionals in the medical field. “Don’t get sick in July,” you may hear a seasoned doctor say in good humor, but are there serious threats to patients being treated by inexperienced medical interns?
Studies conducted by a number of sources have determined that the month of July does not bring a spike in misdiagnosis or mistreatment of most patients. The lack of evidence of mistreatment during the month of July has given the so-called July Effect little validation over the years.
More recently, however, Harvard Medical School, Stanford University Hospitals, the University of Southern California, and the RAND Corporation have published studies claiming that high-risk patients are, in fact, vulnerable to improper treatment by our country’s medical interns.
Harvard’s professors, however, assure worried patients that it is very uncommon for even a young physician to make a mistake that results in death. But severely ill patients, who have precarious health, can suffer devastating complications from slight errors or lapses in judgment.
Harvard and its affiliates cited evidence of this after assessing more than 1,400 cases. Through the course of their studies, they determined that high-risk patients, such as heart attack victims, have a 5% greater risk of death if they are treated at teaching hospitals in the month of July. And though they determined that regular patients being treated at teaching hospitals have a lower annual risk of death than at non-teaching hospitals, fatalities in teaching hospitals jumped to the same numbers as other institutions during the month of July. Furthermore, they determined that institutions with the highest numbers of trainees saw the biggest difference in patient outcomes between the months of May and July.
So what does this mean for you? If you, or a loved one has suffered serious complications or death under the care of a medical intern at a training hospital, you may be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim. Claims like this should always be undertaken with the care and knowledge of a qualified lawyer. If you have any questions about the July Effect, or medical malpractice claims in general, please contact the qualified attorneys at Grant Law Office.