Several states have recently enacted “medical malpractice reform” which places arbitrary caps on damages awards. Those in favor of such caps argue that doctors will no longer have to worry about “frivolous lawsuits” and “higher malpractice insurance premiums.” This is wrong because arbitrary damages caps will not accomplish either of those goals. Instead, these proposals harm victims who are left with life-changing injuries and shield negligent medical providers for the injuries they cause.
Arbitrary damages caps are easy to believe in when you or a family member have never been a victim, or worked with victims, of medical negligence. The reality is that damage recovery in medical malpractice cases hardly compensates victims for their injuries or even death. Placing limits on these victim’s ability to obtain a “full” recovery (as impossible as that is) lets off the hook the negligent medical providers.
The idea of “reform” begs the question: why focus on limiting the recovery of a victim. The real problem is the huge number of medical negligence victims in the United States each year. True “reform” should address ways to reduce or eliminate medical malpractice victims. These medical mistakes injure and kill thousands of Americans every year. Some shocking statistics reveal the following:
In 1998, the Harvard Medical Practice Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 98,000 people die as a result of malpractice committed in hospitals each year.
In 2000, the Institute of Medicine published an article entitled, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” which stated that in any given year, more people die as a result of medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents (43,458) or breast cancer (42,297) or AIDS (16,516).
In 2003, the Congressional Budget Office found that there were 181,000 severe injuries attributable to medical negligence.
In 2004, HealthGrades, the nation’s leading health care rating organization, found that “The United States loses more American lives to patient safety incidents every six months than it did in the entire Vietnam War. This also equates to three fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every other day for the last five years.”
In November 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported, “An estimated 1.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced an event that contributed to their death, which projects to 15,000 patients in a single month.”
In January of 2011, the obstetrics department of the Cornell Weill/Columbia Presbyterian Obstetrics and Gynecology Department in New York City published a study that showed that they had reduced their malpractice premiums, and more importantly, their malpractice claims by an astounding 99 percent by simply re-examining and redoing their policies and procedures. There was no cap placed on their creativity.
(taken from http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2011/06/medical_profession_at_fault_fo.html)
As the Cornell Weill study demonstrates, reducing malpractice claims and insurance premiums is done most effectively by the medical industry itself. As with attorneys, it only takes a few bad doctors/hospitals/medical boards who allow repeat incidents to drive up insurance costs for everyone else. If lower malpractice claims and insurance premiums are the goal, then stricter self-policing and better medical practices by medical professionals and medical boards is the best way of making sure that costly accidents are reduced or eliminated.
Doctors who cause life-altering injuries or death must be held accountable not off the hook and shielded from their wrongdoing.
“Medical malpractice reform” such as damage caps are not the answer. Medical and insurance costs are more likely to be effectively controlled through reforms and reducing medical mistakes rather than through placing artificial caps on the recovery of the people who did nothing wrong. New Hampshire victims of medical mistakes are at risk now because the issue to impose caps on damages may be brought up in the New Hampshire legislature. The insurance companies and doctors have powerful lobbies at the State House and may try to place caps on a victim’s ability to recover in New Hampshire.
If you or a family member has been harmed by a medical mistake or negligence, please give us a call at 800-240-1988 or fill out on online contact form. We have experienced attorneys who may be able to help you and your family.