Damages Awarded in Malpractice Lawsuits Not to Blame for Rising Health Care Costs

As stated in an earlier post, a plaintiff who files a malpractice lawsuit for a catastrophic medical error such as amputation of the wrong limb could recover up to $1 million per occurrence. Proponents of medical caps will tell you these payouts are to blame for the rising cost of health care. A recent study reveals this assertion isn’t true.

In fact, says Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the leader of the study, “The real problem is that far too many tests and procedures are being performed in the name of defensive medicine, as physicians fear they could be sued if they don’t order them. … It is not the payouts that are bankrupting the system — it’s the fear of them.”

Makary and fellow researchers’ review of the National Practitioner Data Bank — a database of all malpractice judgments or settlements since 1986 — found that catastrophic claim payouts only amounted to 7.9 percent of the 77,621 malpractice claims paid between 2004 and 2010.

More than 34 percent of those catastrophic claim payouts were due to a doctor’s misdiagnosis, nearly 22 percent were due to a birth injury, and close to 18 percent were due to a surgical error.

A full 37 percent involved a doctor who’d previously been sued for medical malpractice. While this could explain why doctors are ordering unnecessary tests, “[Makary] says his findings argue for more research to determine what interventions might prevent the type of errors that result in catastrophic payouts, with the overall goal of improving patient safety and reducing costs at the same time,” reports redOrbit.com.

Related posts:

Are there any damages caps in Ohio medical malpractice claims?

Doctor sued repeatedly for medical malpractice

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