A better way to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits?

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The New York Times Upshot blog, noting that Congressional Republicans are aiming to cap awards in certain malpractice lawsuits at $250,000, has a new piece on malpractice laws and so-called tort reform:
[I]t is not so clear that the best way to solve malpractice lawsuits is through changes focused on the legal system rather than the medical one.

The same 2006 N.E.J.M. study also found that, in many ways, the malpractice system works reasonably well. Most claims without errors or injuries didn’t result in payments, and most claims with errors did.

A study published last month in the American Journal of Health Economics explored the link between malpractice suits and metrics known as Patient Safety Indicators (P.S.I.). ... The study points to a significant link between measures of quality and safety and malpractice claims, suggesting that taking steps to improve patient safety should reduce the risk of lawsuits. Such measures would also probably improve outcomes for patients — a good in itself.

Too often, efforts to fight undeniable problems in the malpractice system start from the assumption that there are too many cases, that they’re not “real,” and that we need to come up with solutions to limit them. But what the data suggest is that improving medical practices may be a more effective approach than passing new laws.
Food for thought with the legislatively referred, nursing-home-lobby-approved measure to cap non-economic damages in civil lawsuits set for the ballot next year.


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