Medical Malpractice Myths and Tort Reform

Geoff Boehm, Legal Director for the Center for Justice and Democracy, has authored a compelling article on the ubiquitous myths of medical malpractice and the need for tort reform. The article is entitled, “Debunking Medical Malpractice Myths: Unraveling the False Premises Behind Tort Reform”. It’s published in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. Boehm writes “Unfortunately, lawmakers and others have focused too much on reducing liability for those preventable errors and too little on reducing their occurrence. As a result, a July 2004 study shows that over a decade in which two-thirds of states passed “tort reform” measures that limit or restrict medical malpractice lawsuits, there was no improvement in safety: The number of avoidable deaths in hospitals alone is now approximately 195,000 per year, not including obstetrics patients. Despite these bleak statistics, when organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) speak about a malpractice “crisis,” they are referring not to the people injured or killed by medical errors or the widespread failure to discipline negligent doctors (including repeat offenders), but rather to doctors’ increasing malpractice insurance premiums.” By shifting attention away from real issues concerning the quality of healthcare, patients continue to be victimized and little is accomplished that would stem the tide of medical errors and medical malpractice. The 15 page essay concludes by noting, “Our civil justice system exists to provide those who have been wronged a forum to seek truth and compensation, even to the dismay of those who may have acted negligently, recklessly, or worse. Caps not only limit the liability of wrongdoers, take away the fundamental power of juries to decide adequate compensation, and leave the most severely injured victims without sufficient means of redress, but they do not even address the increasing costs of healthcare or medical malpractice insurance.”