Med-Mal—What We Need Is Precision

Tue, 11/03/2009 - 6:22am
SHADOWFAX, MedPage Today Blogger

Ezra kindly responds to my post from Friday with a more reasoned stance than "just don't commit malpractice."  His response, however, boils down to two main theses:

  1. Frivolous Lawsuits are not as common as generally thought, and
  2. Standardization can reduce the opportunity for error and thus decrease the frequency of medical malpractice suits.

Well, yes, but I'm not sure that addresses the typical physician's complaints regarding the current med-mal system. 

For example, the "frivolous" moniker is a pretty ambiguous term, especially to doctors' loose understanding of legal terminology.  To a physician, a "frivolous" case is one in which there was no error -- where the standard of care was met, but perhaps the outcome was bad.  Or to put it another way, doctors tend to feel that when they are vindicated in court, it's prima facie evidence that the case was frivolous.  This conviction is bolstered by the little-recognized fact that physicians win the vast majority of cases that actually go to trial, and the vast majority of claims filed do not result in a financial settlement.  So physicians who go through the wringer of even a successful malpractice defense cannot be blamed for coming away with the feeling that the whole exercise was frivolous. 

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