This page is sponsored by Eric Turkewitz, a New York medical malpractice lawyer.
The Medical Malpractice “Crisis” and the Insurance “Crisis”
Not only is medical malpractice a significant problem in the United States, but so too is its discovery by the victims and families of those affected.
As many as 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. (Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System (National Academy Press, 1999).
Yet, a study by the Harvard Medical Practice Study Group determined that for every eight potential medical malpractice claims, only one claim was actually filed (Harvard Medical Practice Study Group, Patients, Doctors, and Lawyers: Medical Injury, Malpractice Litigation, and Patient Compensation in New York (Harvard University, 1990).
Studies of the pervasive problem of medical errors have also found that an estimated 3 to 4 percent of hospitalized patients received the wrong drug, dose or treatment, and that such mistakes are implicated in the death of one in 10 of these victims. (Washington Post, February 18, 2003; Page HE01)
In response to the medical problems, some politicians advocate weakening the civil justice system, so that it is harder to bring suit to hold people medical professionals accountable, or to create artificial one-size-fits-all limits on jury awards. This, of course, will harm public safety, serve to further injure the most seriously harmed in our society, and runs contrary to the concept of taking responsibility for ones actions.
Below are links to organizations that give detailed information about the insurance and medical industries and debunk some of the common myths and propaganda about the reasons for the rise of insurance premiums (Hint: Insurance rates generally go up each time the insurance companies take a bath in the stock market).
A small percentage of New York doctors are responsible for a large portion of malpractice payouts, and the medical community should focus on weeding out bad doctors to improve patient safety and lower malpractice insurance rates over the long term, according to a report released March 10, 1993, by Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization with more than 11,000 members in New York. Information in the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank shows that just 7 percent of New York’s doctors are responsible for 68 percent of malpractice payouts. Conversely, 82 percent of New York’s doctors have never made a malpractice payout since 1990.
The Center for Justice & Democracy is a tax-exempt non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization that works to educate the public about the importance of the civil justice system and the dangers of so-called “tort reforms.” They fight to protect the right to trial by jury and an independent judiciary for all Americans. Their web site is filled with quotes from the insurance industry itself stating that placing limits on the right to a jury trial will not result in lower insurance premiums.
Protecting rights, not wrongs. This is a national coalition of public interest organizations that support effective insurance industry reforms to control skyrocketing insurance rates, reduced insurance coverage, arbitrary policy cancellations, mismanagement and other insurance industry abuses. This study shows that over the last 30 years, medical malpractice payouts, including jury awards, have tracked medical inflation while premiums have gyrated up and down in sync with the economy, interest rates and investment income.
“How Insurance Reform Lowered Doctors’ Medical Malpractice Rates in California — and How Malpractice Caps Failed”