On a Friday evening, a sixty five year old woman who was complaining of a severe cough, difficulty in breathing and an increased fever entered the emergency department of a local hospital. The emergency physician who was on duty that day examined the patient and, though he did not find any specific abnormality with the woman, he ordered for chest radiography. The results were taken, and the physician viewed the results himself and found them to be within the normal range. The emergency physician then discharged the patient, diagnosed an upper respiratory infection, and gave instructions to the woman to consult with her private physician if her symptoms persisted. However, the physician did not consult with the on-call radiologist who was not around but available by telephone.
The radiologist who was on duty for the weekend interpreted the radiographs the following day and wrote a report that stated that the chest was well. However, a small ill-defined, density appeared on the right upper lobe that represented a scar. A year later, the patient was referred to the hospital’s radiology department for chest radiography due to a persistent cough she had been having.
The same radiologist who had interpreted her results one year earlier reviewed the new study. It revealed a 2.5 cm lesion in the woman’s right upper lobe. It was a similar spot to where the radiologist had seen the density the previous year. When the patient learnt of this, she and her husband filed a medical malpractice lawsuit six months later against the hospital, the initial chest radiographs and the emergency department for negligence to communicate the possibility of lung cancer to her, which would have resulted in a 90% probability of cure.
The ensuing legal discovery showed a hospital policy stating that if a radiologic examination observed after hours and interpreted by an emergency department physician, then a radiologist should view and interpret the results officially the following day. In this case, no record / evidence revealed that the radiologist had made any contacts to the emergency department to notify them of a discrepancy the following morning.
The professional liability and the attorneys representing the various codefendants summarized that the lawsuit could not be defended successfully. With the approval of the defendant’s physicians and the hospital, settlement negotiations began. The lawsuit resolved a total payment to the plaintiff of $ one million. The radiologist had to pay $600,000, the emergency physician, and the hospital each paying $200,000.
Alternative dispute resolution includes dispute resolution techniques and processes that function as a medium in which disagreeing parties come up with an agreement (Briggs, 1938). It is inclusive of methods that parties use to settle disputes with or without the aid of a third party. It is classified into four types. These are negotiation, collaborative law, arbitration and mediation.
Negotiation is a dialogue that involves two or more individuals who intend to come to an understanding by resolving their points of difference or attaining an advantage from the outcome of the dialogue held.
Mediation involves resolving disputes between two or more parties that have concrete results. A third party to enable the parties in a dispute come to an agreement does mediation. Collaboration, however, involves separated couples. The management of the hospital could adopt any of the alternative measure to come to an agreement with the woman, hence preventing her from taking a lawsuit against the hospital.
The management on the other hand could have come to an understanding with the woman before she proceeded to court. They would have laid down rules in which they compensate the woman. Both parties should also ensure that they understood the terms of the agreement, which does not necessarily have to be written in a tortuous language.