Posted by Bill Sandweg on 03 July 2011.
You have the right under our system of justice to be compensated for injuries you suffer as the result of negligent conduct by another. Unfortunately, if that other is a doctor, nurse or hospital, there is a push to take away or severely limit your rights. The justification most often used is that there is a crisis afoot, that health care professionals are having to pay huge amounts to greedy patients for non-existent injuries and the only way to address it is to take away or limit your rights. In fact there was never a crisis and, if there ever was one, it is long gone by now.
The federal government maintains a data bank called the National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDB”). Every payment made on behalf of a doctor, nurse or hospital in response to a medical malpractice claim must be reported to the data bank. While the data on individual payments is not available to you or to me, the NPDB does publicly report on the totals. The findings do not support those who would limit your rights. The numbers of payments and the total amounts were down across the board.
The total number of malpractice payments on behalf of doctors in 2010 was the lowest since the NPDB began keeping statistics in 1990.
When adjusted for inflation, the total dollars paid in 2010 were the lowest ever recorded. In actual dollars, unadjusted for inflation, the total dollars paid were the lowest since 1998.
Medical malpractice payments don’t explain the huge rise in health care costs. While health care spending rose 90% between 2000 and 2010, medical malpractice payments fell by almost 12% during the same period.
Medical malpractice payments to victims amounted to 0.13% of national health care costs in 2010.
In spite of the frequently heard statement that most malpractice claims are “frivolous”, over 80% of the payments in 2010 were for catastrophic injuries or death.
Here is a link to an analysis of the NPDB data by Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization: http://www.citizen.org/documents/NPDB-2010.pdf