In a review of a book, Professor Mary Coombs, who taught at the University of Miami School of Law until retiring in 2014, makes this observation:
“The primary strands of the malpractice myth are the following: that many malpractice lawsuits are frivolous; that many plaintiffs obtain large judgments or settlements although the defendants did nothing wrong; and that, as a result of these lawsuits, doctors have been driven to waste substantial resources on defensive medicine, insurance premiums have skyrocketed, and good doctors have been driven out of the practice of medicine. The overall result: worse care for patients, demoralized doctors, higher costs of medical care, with no one benefiting but a few greedy plaintiffs and … trial lawyers.”
Here are some of those myths we’ve all heard about:
MYTH: There is an increase in medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors. FACT: The number of malpractice payments have dropped over the last 10 years. According to the NCSC, medical malpractice cases represent well under 2 percent of all civil cases.
MYTH: Most medical malpractice lawsuits are frivolous, and the person filing the lawsuit is interested in getting a lot of money. FACT: Medical malpractice cases tend to involve severe injuries. Researchers have found few claims that were without merit. Most negligence claims were meritorious, with 97 percent of claims involving medical injury and 80 percent involving physical injuries resulting in major disability or death. Because these cases are very expensive to bring, it is hard to find medical malpractice cases that are without merit. See National Center for State Courts; New England Journal of Medicine; Los Angeles Times. According to research from Harvard, most people file medical malpractice claims to determine what happened to their loved one and why it happened. In fact, medical malpractice claims at the University of Michigan Health System have dropped since it instituted a policy of apologizing and being open with patients when errors occur.
MYTH: Malpractice crises are caused by spikes in medical malpractice lawsuits. FACT: On dramatic surges in insurance rates, research shows that the insurance system primarily responds to “the frequency of serious medical injuries,” not litigation results. They also found that stories of outlandish jury awards are common, but that actual awards typically are greatly reduced in the legal process and that more than 95 percent of payouts are the result of voluntary settlements.
MYTH: Physicians are one malpractice verdict away from bankruptcy. FACT: Doctors rarely make out-of-pocket payments in malpractice cases. Research shows that such payments are “extraordinarily rare.”
MYTH: Physicians move in large numbers to states that adopt damages caps and other tort reform measures. FACT: Studies have shown that this is not the reason for any alleged physician migration.
MYTH: Tort reform will lower health care spending dramatically. FACT: Research shows that tort reform in various states yield little to no reduction in health care spending.
MYTH: Medical malpractice claims outnumber incidents of actual medical malpractice. FACT: Up to 7 in 8 patients never seek relief for the injuries they suffer through medical malpractice, even though it kills about 100,000 people a year in the United States.
MYTH: It is impossible to stop the occurrence of medical malpractice. FACT: Most people injured by medical malpractice are victims of preventable errors.
MYTH: Medical malpractice claims increase insurance premiums. FACT: Insurance rate increases are more closely linked to the insurance industry’s economic cycle than to medical malpractice claims. Also, health care costs have risen, but the number of medical malpractice claims has decreased dramatically in the past decade.
Also, if you enjoy podcasts, check out "Dr. Death" by Wondery. It tells the story of an out of control doctor and how he was able to get away with his crimes for so long due to tort reform measures adopted by Texas.