Posted by Bill Sandweg on 07 January 2019.
Last week I wrote about a study which examined over 20 years of reports to the National Practitioners Data Bank about payments made on behalf of doctors to resolve medical malpractice claims. I discussed the study findings about the most common forms of malpractice. This week I want to discuss some of the other findings of the study.
A common myth perpetuated by the medical industry and the insurance industry is that there is a medical malpractice crisis that requires the government to take away your rights. As usual, campaigns of this type are based on fear and assume that you won’t take the time to investigate their claims. They want you to believe that the courts are flooded with frivolous claims and that good doctors are being driven out of practice by frivolous suits. They want you to believe that, if something isn’t done to fix this, you won’t be able to get medical care, or that what care you do get will cost more than you can afford. None of this is true.
The data from the National Practitioners Data Bank shows that since 1992, the rate of paid claims against all physicians has declined by over 55%. During that same time period, the population of the United States has increased by over 62 million people. That is an increase of almost 25%. So at the same time that the population has increased by almost 25%, the rate of paid claims has decreased by over 55%. Claims aren’t going up, they are going down and going down a lot. Sound like a crisis to you? Sound like the government should take away some of your rights to solve this crisis?
Many, many studies have found that, while there is a lot of medical malpractice, very few of the victims of malpractice make a claim. The information at the Data Bank supports this conclusion. A study by medical researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine has determined that there are approximately 250,000 deaths each year attributable to medical error. By contrast, from 1992 to 2014, there were only 35,000 claims paid on the basis of a patient death. Over the same period of time, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers, there were 5 1/2 million deaths due to medical error. Why do so few people make a claim? Much of the disparity is due to the medical profession sweeping malpractice deaths under the rug. No one goes out of their way to tell families that their loved one died due to medical mistakes. Secondly, people are not as sue crazy as those who want to take away your rights would have you believe. Most people just want to put the tragic loss of their loved one behind them. They are not interested in making a claim, even if they suspect that mistakes were made.
Another important finding to result from the Data Bank information is that there are repeat offender doctors out there who are responsible for a disproportionate number of the paid claims. The 5% of the doctors with the most claims were responsible for almost 25% of all of the claims paid. Far from good doctors being driven out of practice by frivolous malpractice claims, bad doctors are allowed to continue to practice and to continue to harm patients. The bad doctors are ruining things for everyone. Before you allow the government to take away any of your rights, you should insist that these bad doctors be put out of business.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about medical malpractice. Take the time to learn the truth.