Proves Unfounded Controversy Over Medical Malpractice
We are constantly being bombarded with
press clippings, statistics, and other propaganda
suggesting that "frivolous lawsuits" are
threatening medicine across this country. We hear
that malpractice premiums are skyrocketing and driving
physicians out of practice. Doctors are telling some
stories that expectant mothers no longer can find
obstetricians willing to deliver their babies.
However, documented research performed
by groups within the insurance and medical industries
exposes this "hype" over malpractice litigation
for what it really is: special interest groups and
politicians trying to gain a competitive edge. According
to a recent article in USA Today, this furor is not
justified by the research.
First, according to the National Association
of Insurance Commissioners, between 1995-2000 new
medical malpractice claims declined by 4%. Next, the
myth that jurors use sympathy to let weak cases succeed
is also false. According to a 1996 study by the National
Center for State Courts, the rate of victories for
plaintiffs in a medical malpractice suit is about
30% lower than in any other litigation. Moreover,
"a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found
that plaintiffs' win rates did not increase with the
severity of injury" said the USA Today article.
Additionally, several studies have proven
that even in cases where the verdict exceeds one million
dollars, only about 25% of those verdicts ever actually
get paid. The rest are reduced by the appellate courts
or the case gets retried.
According to the USA Today article,
the cuprit of soaring malpractice premiums is the
downturn in the stock market which reduced insurance
company reserves and investment income. To illustrate
this point, the USA Today article cites the experience
of The St. Paul Companies, one of the nation's largest
writers of medical malpractice insurance, who stopped
writing such insurance because of investment losses,
including $70 million in Enron alone.
USA Today goes on to cite the National
Practitioner Data Bank as supporting the proposition
that about 5% of physicians account for the majority
of all medical malpractice claims. Of the doctors
who have paid 5 or more malpractice claims, only 13.3%
were subject to professional discipline.
USA Today author Carl Bogus concludes:
"The most privileged among us may not have
to worry about being treated by a doctor with a bad
record. But the rest of us do. The civil justice system
is a flashlight shining into the dark corners of the
medical delivery system. Let's not dim the bulb."
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