Medical Malpractice Study Published in New England Journal of Medicine

The Associated Press calls it the most comprehensive study in two decades. The finding were published today by the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings may surprise some who seek to characterize all medical malpractice claims as frivolous and blame all healthcare woes on medical malpractice lawsuits.
The study made reference to an earlier study in New York that concluded that most of those injured never file a medical malpractice claim. Some are dissuaded from doing so because of the high upfront cost in most medical malpractice cases. The study found that only 1 in 5 malpractice claims conclude with a successful outcome for the injured party.
According to the Associated Press, the study found:
—About 7.5 percent of doctors have a claim filed against them each year. That finding is a little higher than a recent American Medical Association survey, in which 5 percent of doctors said they had dealt with a malpractice claim in the previous year.
—Fewer than 2 percent of doctors each year were the subject of a successful claim, in which the insurer had to pay a settlement or court judgment.
—Some types of doctors were sued more than others. About 19 percent of neurosurgeons and heart surgeons were sued every year, making them the most targeted specialties. Pediatricians and psychiatrists were sued the least, with only about 3 percent of them facing a claim each year.
—When pediatricians did pay a claim, it was much more than other doctors. The average pediatric claim was more than $520,000, while the average was about $275,000.
Public health advocate Dr. Sydney Wolfe of Public Citizen expressed his disappointment that the study didn’t address issues that might improve public health safety.
“The thing that’s disappointing about their study is they don’t focus on what can be done to prevent people from being injured,” said Wolfe, who has pushed for more aggressive policing of doctors by state medical licensing boards.