One of the main reasons a doctor is often blamed for is medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can be defined as any act or omission on behalf of a physician while treating a patient that has led to the injury of the patient. Medical malpractice is usually deviant from the norms of practice that are widely accepted by the medical community. Once a patient can establish that medical negligence had led to injury, the court calculates the compensation that the doctor should pay, based on the economic and noneconomic losses of the patient. Economic losses include the income the patient has lost due to a medical malpractice, as well as the money they should be forced to pay in the future for medical care, because of the doctor’s fault. Noneconomic losses include the pain and suffering caused to the patient. Although theoretically all is in place, it really is not. There is a growing liability crisis that creates rising concern and pinpoints to the fact that medical malpractice lawsuits should be not only limited, but seriously reconsidered.
In detail, medical malpractice makes physicians become more hesitant as to how to treat a patient, which is detrimental for both the doctor and the patient. How is healthcare enhanced, when physicians are emotionally scared to practice medicine? Other than that, going through a trial, make physicians return to practice feeling less motivated and far more skeptical when treating a patient, which results in them requesting for more tests, and treating patients as adversaries (Pho). Doctors are not up to the challenge anymore when forced to act under the fear of medical malpractice. As a result, medical malpractice lawsuits only helps ruin the collaborative nature of patients and doctors and makes physicians far more reluctant to do what they do best, which is to treat and cure.
Secondly, medical malpractice lawsuits cost an enormous amount of money that physicians are called to pay, so to get medical malpractice insurance, and patients delay in receiving, when they win their case. That money could be spent to healthcare, instead and achieve a win-win condition for all. The medical malpractice liability system, as it is established in the US, has two primary objectives: “to compensate patients who are injured through the negligence of healthcare compensate patients who are injured through the negligence of healthcare providers and to deter providers from practicing negligently” (Kessler 93). However, administrating the entire system costs an enormous amount of money. The practice for malpractice insurance varies according to specialty and geographic location. Indicatively, premiums in Suffolk Country, New York, for obstetrics specialty reached $178,000, in 2008, while premiums in Colorado for the same specialty was a third as much (Kassler 94). Physicians feel that the current system urges doctors to practice defensive medicine, out of fear of legal liability. Defensive medicine raises the system’s administrative expenses and indemnity payments from one percent that is now, to two or three percent of health spending, which is interpreted in more than $50 million annually (Kassler 93). On the other hand, patients that lose medical malpractice suits, are called to pay bills that could reach thousands of dollars. That money could be saved and spent so to enhance healthcare, encourage medical research, and help save people’s lives instead.
Finally, with physicians afraid of medical malpractice lawsuits, it is highly likely a young individual would seriously reconsider entering the profession, especially for specialties like obstetrics and anesthetics. The 2012 Survey on Professional Liability, conducted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reports that more than 17 percent of gynecologists have either stopped performing major gynecologic surgery or are significantly hesitant to move forward with one, while more than 18 percent of obstetrics have stopped accepting patients with high obstetric risk, and five percent has stopped practicing obstetrics (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists). That been said, the American Medical Association believes that the legal system is out of control nowadays, due to unfettered increase of jury awards, which raises the liability crisis (Vidmar). Juries that are called to decide on medical malpractice-related issues do not support their decisions based on an in-depth comprehension of all medical facts. This is complete disadvantageous for physicians, as opposed to other individuals that are put on trial for negligence (Vidmar).
Opposing viewpoints base their claim that medical malpractice should not be limited, on the fact that injured patients because of medical malpractices should be compensated for the pain, suffering, and loss of money that have been put through. Medical malpractice suits are also perceived as a means to promote patient safety. Truth is negligent physicians should be brought to court and be trialed for their mistakes. However, the key is not to go to the extremes and start suiting physicians by hundreds. The current reform bills encourage dramatic amount of litigation that places physicians at greater malpractice risks, which in turns affects healthcare delivery. Additionally, many US states have enacted some sort of apology laws and programs that appear to have a positive impact on the physician-patient relationship and reduce the likelihood for litigation (Wu et al.). After all, doctors are only human, so why are they expected to have God-like properties?
Concluding, the increased frequency of medical malpractice lawsuits can have various negative effects on both patient health care and the medical field. Under the threat of a lawsuit for medical malpractice, doctors may either retract from treating patients with certain conditions, or discourage them from conducting procedures that may be risky; yet, potentially beneficial for the patient. Other than that, doctors are already quitting their specialty, out of fear for a lawsuit that would severely damage their reputation in the medical world and take away motivation to practice their profession and help save people’s lives. This could be detrimental for us all and bring us back to earlier centuries where people were dying by thousands, even millions, due to lack of doctors. Only this time it would be worse, because we would be having doctors; only deprived of what they know best: to treat and cure.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2012). “2012 Survey Results”. Web. April 18, 2014 <http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/ACOG_Departments/Professional_Liability/2012_Survey_Results>
Kessler, DP. (2011) “Evaluating the Medical Malpractice System and Options for Reform”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25 (2): 93-110.
Pho, Kevin (2011). “How malpractice hurts doctors and their future patients”. Web. April 17, 2014 <http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/05/malpractice-hurts-doctors-future-patients.html>
Vidmar, Neil (2009). “Juries and Medical Malpractice Claims: Empirical Facts versus Myths”. Clin Orthop Relat Res. Feb 2009; 467(2): 367–375. doi: 10.1007/s11999-008-0608-6. PMCID: PMC2628507
Wu, A., Huang, I., Stokes, S., & Pronovost, P. (2009). Disclosing medical errors to patients: It’s not what you say, It’s what they hear. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24 (9), 1012-1017.