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Advances in Medicine and Recognition of the Validity of Medical Malpractice Cases

December 11, 2018


The Merck Manual of 1899 was a guide to the general practitioner as to the appropriate remedy or remedies for various illnesses.

Some of the following are treatments and poultices recommended in the 1899 Manual:


  • Bleeding
  • Chloroform
  • Mustard: Poultice to nape of neck

Palpations of the Heart

  • Cocaine
  • Digitalis
  • Hot bath

Diabetes insipidus

  • Arsenic
  • Creosote
  • Opium: Most useful; large doses if necessary


  • Alcohol
  • Camphor: in hysterical excitement
  • Cod liver oil

Insanity and Dementia

  • Codeine
  • Opium
  • Zinc phosphate


  • Leeches to perineum

Obviously, in the past 100 years there have been enormous advances in medical knowledge and practice. There also have been advances in the public recognition of the role of medical malpractice actions in promoting patient safety.  Numerous advances in medical procedures, medical products and drugs have come about as a result of this litigation.

An excellent example is in the field of anesthesia.  As a result of very significant malpractice verdicts which occurred as a result of poor monitoring, the anesthesia profession took significant measures to develop mechanical safety procedures and devices which have greatly reduced injury and death.  The effect of these changes has improved patient safety and significantly reduced anesthesia malpractice claims.

In addition, a vast number of medical products and drugs that have caused harm to patients have been removed from the market or redesigned as a result of lawyers bringing cases for injured patients.  Products that have gone under public scrutiny as a result of litigation include:

  • Artificial metal on metal hip implants
  • Vaginal mesh
  • Various implantable cardioverter-defibrillators
  • Several birth control devices, such as Essure

Litigation has also exposed dangerous drugs that eventually got taken off the market, such as:

  • Accutane
  • Darvocet
  • DES
  • Quaalude
  • Vioxx

Dramatic advances have occurred in medicine as well as in the recognition of the social good of medical malpractice actions.

Richard A. Silver
Silver Golub & Teitell LLP

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