Trial Lawyers Push Back On Medical Malpractice Reform
"The American Association for Justice announced today it is launching what it called the first phase of a nationwide ad campaign 'to educate lawmakers about the epidemic of preventable medical errors and how tort law changes won't lower costs or cover the uninsured,'" The Boston Globe reports. "The ads, running in Washington publications and on online news sites, say the estimated 98,000 deaths from preventable medical errors is 'like two 737s crashing every day for a whole year.' But the ad concludes: 'Would we blame the passengers or the airlines?'" (Rhee, 9/22).
The New York Times also reports on medical malpractice. Economic Scene columnist David Leonhardt notes that while there is a great partisan divide on the issue, there is also "a lot of research by economists and others with no vested interest," who have drawn factual conclusions. "The direct costs of malpractice lawsuits - jury awards, settlements and the like - are such a minuscule part of health spending that they barely merit discussion, economists say. But that doesn't mean the malpractice system is working." In addition, "[t]he fear of lawsuits among doctors does seem to lead to a noticeable amount of wasteful treatment," estimated to be about "$60 billion a year or about 3 percent of overall medical spending." But researchers have also estimated that few errors lead to action: "only 2 to 3 percent of cases of medical negligence lead to a malpractice claim." The malpractice system may therefore be "expensive in all the wrong ways" (Leonhardt, 9/22).