Author Archive

The Uneasy Case for the Malpractice System

Maggie Mahar offers a spirited two-part defense (here and here) of the indefensible at The Health Care Blog. More aptly, she launches a spirited attack on the critics of malpractice, leaving the impression that the system really isn’t all that bad. The method: create mythical statements that few people actually believe and then show why the myths are myths.

Here are a few true features of the system she either ignored or short changed:

  • Less than 2 percent of actual malpractice cases ever lead to a lawsuit.
  • Of those cases that are filed, one third does not involve malpractice at all.
  • Less than half of the money spent in the malpractice system goes to compensate the victims; the remainder goes to pay lawyer fees and court costs.
  • Of all the adverse events in hospitals, only about one-fourth is technically “malpractice.” The rest have no legal grounds for compensation, even though one half of those events are “preventable.”

Does this sound like a good system to you?

Mahar is right about one thing, however. Half-baked reforms result in half-baked solutions. What is needed is radical reform of the type we outlined in Health Affairs.  We propose to allow hospitals to offer patients adverse event insurance with no-fault payouts in return for waiving their common law rights to litigate.  This insurance would compensate patients based on their loss without litigation. No lawyers. No depositions. No judges. No juries. No court house.

What could be better than that?