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Exposing the Truth About Medical Malpractice

In a recent journal article, authors David A. Hyman and Charles Silver presented compelling evidence in debunking several misconceptions of medical malpractice cases.  Aside from its groundbreaking content, the most remarkable part of the article might be its source; “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice” was not only co-authored by Hyman, a licensed medical doctor, but it also appears in CHEST, an official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians.

 In the article, the authors identify five myths surrounding medical malpractice litigation.  Through the use of detailed empirical evidence, these misconceptions were dismissed in turn.

  • MYTH: “Medical malpractice crises are caused by spikes in medical malpractice litigation (i.e., sudden rises in payouts and claim frequency)
  • FACT:  Studies show that medical malpractice crises are caused not by spikes in the volume of medical malpractices cases or rises in payouts, but by the frequency with which serious medical injuries occur.  As such injuries occur independent of any attorney involvement, these crises have no correlation to the attorneys who handle medical malpractice cases.
  • MYTH: “The tort system delivers ‘jackpot justice.’”
  • FACT:  While many believe that the medical malpractice system compensates injured parties arbitrarily, the evidence offered by Hyman and Silver suggests the opposite.  According to research, payments in medical malpractice cases increased proportionately with injury severity, allowing those individuals suffering the most grievous injuries to receive the most appropriate compensation.
  • MYTH: “Physicians are one malpractice verdict away from bankruptcy.”
  • FACT:  Despite this concern, physicians face a remarkably low risk of bankruptcy brought on by medical malpractice.  Studies show that the majority of medical malpractice cases never make it to court, as most are settled or dismissed.  In fact, only two percent (2%) of medical malpractice claims are ever heard in court, with providers prevailing in nearly 75% of such cases.  While multi-million dollar verdicts tend to make headlines, the majority of medical malpractice cases are unremarkable.
  • MYTH: “Physicians move to states that adopt damages caps.”
  • FACT: Simply put, damage caps have shown to have little or no effect on the physician population in a given state.  Using the state of Texas as a case-study, the author’s examined the number of physicians practicing in Texas both before and after the state legislature adopted tort reform.  According to the data, the authors determined that physician supply went unaffected by state tort reform; it was neither dwindling before the reform, nor improving after.
  • MYTH: “Tort reform will lower health-care spending dramatically”
  • FACT:  The authors cite a number of studies, including their own work, in support of the proposition that tort reform has little to no effect on health-care spending levels.  While tort reform did result in the reduction of overall payouts, such litigation had no significant effect on the amount spent by providers.

 While it is easy for medical health professionals to vilify patients and their attorney’s for pursuing medical malpractice claims, this article manages to shed some much-needed light on the topic.  With sound statistics to support their assertions, the authors manage to successfully debunk many of the myths regarding medical malpractice.

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