Medical Journal Study Criticizes Claim of Link between Malpractice Crisis and Litigation

A study recently published in a prominent medical journal calls into question the claim that the existing “medical malpractice crisis” is a result of patients seeking redress for harm caused to them by their health care providers. The article, titled “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice” and published in the journal “Chest”, discounts five myths that proponents of tort reform commonly use to justify limiting the rights of injured patients and their families, including the notion that malpractice crises are spurred by spikes in medical malpractice litigation.

In their paper, the authors – Dr. David Hyman and Charles Silver – point to data from the National Practitioner Databank demonstrating that the frequency of paid medical practice claims per physician has steadily dropped since 1992 and is now less than one-half the level it was at that time. The authors also point to data demonstrating that “payout per physician” is 46% below the 1992 level. Dr. Hyman and Mr. Silver remark that so-called “reforms” enacted by states over the last twenty years have made it more difficult for injured patients to seek relief and that the cost of both prosecuting and defending claims has tremendously increased since 1988. For instance, the authors note, costs are increased by limitations put on the claims by state legislatures on who can serve as an expert because “decreased supply [of potential expert witnesses] translates into higher prices”.

In conclusion, Dr. Hyman and Mr. Silver state that: “The best reforms are patient safety initiatives that reduce the frequency and severity of medical mistakes.”

To read a copy of “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice,” click here.

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