Amidst all the talk of so called tort reform and “frivolous lawsuits” comes a study by the Public Citizen, a non profit organization based in Washington D.C. that represents consumer interests through lobbying, litigation, research, and public education. The study illustrates the decline in medical malpractice payments since 1999.
In 2008, the number of malpractice payments was the lowest it’s been since the formation of the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, which has tracked medical malpractice payments since 1990. 2008 was the third consecutive year that medical malpractice payments sunk to an all time low.
Unfortunately, the decline in payments has nothing to do with a reduction in medical errors and everything to do with the increase in the number of victims not being compensated. This also means that there are fewer incentives for doctors and nurses to reduce errors. According to a 1999 study done by the Institute of Medicine entitled “To Err is Human,” an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 hospital patients are killed every year due to avoidable medical mistakes.
Yet fewer than 15,000 malpractice payments were made in 1999. Those numbers DO NOT include the number of patients who suffered serious, non-fatal injuries. The large gap between the victims and the compensated has likely grown larger since 1999, as there is no evidence that any meaningful improvements to medical safety have been made.
In a series of graphs and charts, the Public Citizen thoroughly demonstrates the fall in malpractice payments in the last decade. In five years, there was a loss of 3,336 medical malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians. That means that while the number of victimized patients was rising, the number of those patients being compensated was falling. Studies since the 1970’s show that medical errors greatly outnumber lawsuits.
Perhaps the kind of reform that would greatly reduce the legal liability of our health care system is not the kind of reform that’s needed. It seems that medical errors are shockingly prevalent. Problems should be fixed at their source. Eliminating medical errors, rather than reforming our tort system, should be a goal of priority.
It’s been easy to drum up support for so called tort reform by blaming our health care woes on medical malpractice cases and “junk lawsuits,” but the numbers tell a very different story. In 2006, medical malpractice payments accounted for between .18 and .58 percent of all health care costs. 2006 is the most recent year with all of the necessary information available to make these comparisons.
Medical malpractice is a very serious issue, and something that is affecting patients everyday. Most doctors are wonderful and care tremendously for their patients. They are careful and follow well established rules of the medical profession to prevent errors.
However, a very small minority are not so caring and do not follow the rules. It is the mission of a trial attorney to represent those victimized by medical malpractice and earn them the compensation they deserve.
The trial attorneys at Mininno Law Firm want to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one have recently suffered due to medical malpractice, you must act quickly! A two year statute of limitations can prevent you from being able to hold liable those who have harmed you.
Contact the Mininno Law Firm or call us at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.