‘COVID Glow’ May Bring Benefits in Malpractice Litigation

In the July issue of Healthcare Risk Management, Dr. Rachel York Colangelo shows how Magna’s pandemic-era jury research points to a ‘COVID glow’ that could last for years:

Hospitals and other healthcare organizations could benefit from a COVID-19 “glow” or “halo effect” in which medical malpractice juries look more favorably on defendants because of the public’s positive perception of healthcare workers. The portrayal of doctors and nurses as heroes might leave a lasting impression that affects how jurors perceive defense arguments.

COVID-19-era jury perception surveys conducted by Magna Legal Services, a national jury consulting firm, revealed healthcare is one of the industries likely to benefit from a “halo effect” in litigation that goes to trial. Survey data indicates that 81% of respondents reported a greater sense of compassion for healthcare workers since before COVID-19, says Rachel York Colangelo, PhD, Magna’s national managing director of jury consulting.

Twenty-three percent of potential jurors surveyed knew a COVID-19 healthcare worker. Sixty percent of respondents said they would be “less critical of healthcare workers post-COVID.” Eighty percent said they were “very concerned” about COVID-19 healthcare workers, and 81% said they would have a greater sense of compassion for healthcare workers after the pandemic.

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“What we’re seeing is not surprising, given the publicity that frontline healthcare workers dealing with COVID have received,” Colangelo says. “Because of the goodwill they have garnered as a result of their tireless work, we are seeing what we call a ‘halo effect’ for not only frontline healthcare workers but the healthcare industry in general.”

There is a greater awareness of the work done by healthcare professionals, the conditions in which they work, the long hours, lack of resources, overcrowding, and the sacrifice of personal time.

“With that appreciation and understanding also comes a less critical view in the minds of the public who are potential jurors,” she says.

The effect also benefits pharmaceutical companies because of the public’s appreciation for the quick development of COVID-19 vaccines, she notes.

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