Medical Malpractice Reform: Another Study Shows It Is Ineffective

Politicians who urge that states and the federal government adopt medical malpractice reform, also called tort reform, promise that it will make medicine better and cheaper for all.  They have no proof to support their claims but that doesn’t slow them down at all.  Some states have taken away the rights of patients in an attempt to obtain these benefits.  They have limited medical malpractice awards and enacted other laws to make it more difficult for a patient to win his or her case.  As time goes by, more and more studies done in these states have shown that taking away the rights of patients does not make things better.

The Recent Study

The most recent study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most highly respected medical journals in the United States.  The authors looked at emergency room care in three states, Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, which had taken steps to make it more difficult for patients to sue emergency room doctors.  The authors wanted to see if these laws had made any change in the way emergency medicine was practiced.  Did the laws eliminate or reduce what the politicians called “defensive medicine”?  Now that the doctors were no longer as afraid of being sued, did they order fewer tests?  Did they admit fewer patients to the hospital?  Did the emergency room bills for patients in these states go down?  If the doctors had really been practicing “defensive medicine”, the changes in the law should have made noticeable changes in the way the doctors practiced.  We have discussed the myth of defensive medicine in past posts.

What The Authors Found.

The authors looked at rates at which expensive studies, such as CT scans and MRI’s, were done.  They looked at average bills in the emergency rooms in these states and they looked at how many patients were admitted to the hospital from the emergency room.  They found that in each of the three states, the use of CT’s and MRI’s stayed about the same.  They found that just as many emergency department patients were admitted to the hospital as before patient rights were limited.  The only change they found was that in one of the states, Georgia, there had been a reduction in the average emergency room charges per visit of 3.6%.  Emergency room charges remained just as high as before in Texas and South Carolina.


In conclusion, except for a very small reduction in the amount of the average emergency room bill in Georgia, patients had their rights taken away for nothing.  The benefits which were promised in return for giving up these rights did not materialize.  This study joins others which have found that “defensive medicine” is a myth propagated by the doctors and politicians to justify taking away your rights.  Don’t let them get away with it.


Posted in Doctors, Health Care Costs, Lawsuits, Malpractice caps, Medical Costs, Medical Malpractice, tort reform |