New Research Shows “Malpractice Crisis” is Just a Myth

Is there a medical malpractice crisis in this country? Recent reports say no.

According to the consumer group, Public Citizen, medical malpractice claims reached an all-time low in 2011 after consistently dropping for the last eight years. Although some policymakers and doctors groups try to blame malpractice payments for driving up healthcare costs, their allegations appear to be unfounded. OurIllinois medical malpractice litigation experts believe that the healthcare field would be best served if medical professionals shifted their focus from arbitrary finger pointing to improving patient safety measures.

Doctors argue that the cost of medical malpractice insurance and the practice of defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits spell disaster for the health care system. Insurance costs include everything from premiums to settlements and administrative costs. In order to protect themselves from the threat of liability, many doctors allege that they are being forced to practice “defensive medicine.” This means that they are performing unnecessary tests and surgical procedures purely based on the fear that they will be sued if they fail to take such measures. When this happens, they claim, the cost of total health care spending goes up.

However, new evidence shows that these claims are baseless. Public Citizen found that medical malpractice costs actually made up less than 1 percent of overall national healthcare costs in 2011. More importantly, out of all of the malpractice payments made that year, more than 60 percent were awarded to patients for serious, permanent injuries caused by negligence.

These statistics help prove that phony or frivolous lawsuits are not clogging up the system, as some may argue. Rather, medical malpractice lawyers rarely file cases unless they have evidence that a patient was seriously injured by a negligent medical mistake. Sadly, a majority of patients are not compensated at all for injuries that they suffer as a result of medical malpractice. Far too many injured victims and their families are being forced to bear the significant costs of lifelong medical care.

Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys firmly believe that it is unjust to deprive medical negligence victims of their right to compensation. Numerous studies have shown that one of the most efficient ways to reduce healthcare costs is by implementing hospital safety protocols designed to protect patients from preventable medical mistakes. As Kaiser Health News reported, surgeons operate on the wrong patient or wrong body part as many as 40 times a week in hospitals around the country! This is a shocking statistic that underscores the critical need for improved hospital safety programs.

Experts have suggested that surgical teams take a “time out” before performing surgery so that the surgical team can go over important details and make sure that they are working on the right patient, operating on the correct site, and that they have all of the tools and medications they need. Medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death in our nation, and prevention is key.

The rights of patients should not be restricted any longer. With medical malpractice payments at record lows, even when inflation is taken into account, malpractice victims should not be forced to absorb the cost of medical errors. Patients and their families suffer enough when medical mistakes happen, and financial pressures should not needlessly cause them further harm.

While the idea of a “medical malpractice litigation crisis” may just be a myth, one thing that we know for sure is that avoidable medical mistakes happen every day. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows that eliminating or capping victim’s rights will not lower the cost of healthcare. Rather, it will just prevent patients from being rightfully compensated for their injuries.

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