Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Improve Healthcare?

Does a lawsuit resulting from a medical mistake in Pennsylvania benefit society on the whole? That is a hotly debated issue in the medical and legal community.

There can really be no contra argument that medical malpractice lawsuits brought because of wrong-site surgery, misdiagnosis, object retention, and prescription errors gets the attention of the medical community. Lawsuits take years to bring to fruition. However, any claim of malpractice where suits is filed means inevitable delays as evidence is gathered, the parties to the suit are deposed, and experts are retained to offer their opinions. Malpractice settlements and verdicts vary from one locality to the next. A patient injured by a medical mistake in Pennsylvania may be able to pursue a medical malpractice case. Not all medical wrongs equate to malpractice, however. The fact is, most such claims are never brought, for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons is the expense in bringing such cases. The damages must be severe enough to warrant bringing a lawsuit.

What we know is:

 Too few doctors are disciplined for medical errors.

Every year about 98,000 medical errors occur in the US, some causing injury, others causing death. Of those 98,000 errors, only 0.05% result in penalties for offending doctors. Which brings us to the next important fact…

A doctor who commits medical malpractice is likely to do so again.

An early 90s report released by the National Practitioner Data Bank said a shockingly small group of doctors are responsible for over half of med mal payouts. Here are the report’s exact numbers:

    • Just over 5% of doctors are responsible for more than half of med mal offenses resulting in payouts.
    • About 35,000 doctors were reported to have committed two or more offenses resulting in payouts. Among them, a mere 8% were in some way disciplined.
    • Of the doctors who have committed five med mal errors resulting in payouts, only about 13% have actually been disciplined.

For more information on medical malpractice myths and common forms of medical errors in Pennsylvania, see the articles located on our website.