To hear many in the health care professions and tort reform advocates tell it, malpractice litigation represents one of the great scourges of modern medicine, racking up costly and time-consuming verdicts, clogging the civil justice system, and leading caregivers to wasteful defensive practices, including over-testing and over-medicating.
Bah, humbug, to such myths, The Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School has replied in its fifth annual Medical Malpractice by the Numbers briefing book.
The latest work, which is available online for free (click on the previous link and follow to the end of the document for a download hyperlink) provides concise, relevant references in 128 pages of carefully footnoted citations to factual research on medical malpractice, including these salient findings:
- Medical malpractice cases constitute just 3 percent of all tort matters, with juries deciding few of these lawsuits — an estimated 3 percent to 9 percent of them.
- Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. Even with the myriad patients treated in 2014, physicians made just slight more than 8,500 malpractice payments; just 5,288 disciplinary actions were taken “that reduced, restricted, suspended, revoked or denied physicians’ clinical privileges or membership in a health care entity.”
- A handful of MDs, roughly 11 percent, accounted for about 25 percent of the cases that resulted in complications, and surgeons with the highest complication rates are performing operations in hospitals nationwide.
“Although hundreds of thousands of patients die each year due to medical errors, very few medical claims are paid to compensate injured patients,” says Joanne Doroshow, the CJ&D executive director who is a principal author of the briefing book with Emily Gottlieb, CJ&D’s deputy director for law and policy.