Which Doctors Commit Medical Malpractice?

Shocking statistic: fewer that 2% of physicians are responsible for ALL medical malpractice claims.

Doctor in scrubs in foreground with blurred people in scrubs in background during surgery possible medical malpractice

Only a handful of doctors generate the most medical malpractice claims according to studies.

A report released by the Journal of Patient Safety in January 2017 showed that the majority of all medical malpractice suits were the result of the unreasonable actions of a few physicians.  The medical investigators reached the conclusion that a small outlier of physicians had a disproportionately negative impact on the safety of all patients.

History of Small Groups of Dangerous Doctors

Over the past 25 years, there have been $83 billion in medical malpractice lawsuit payouts. The unreasonable actions of 1.8% of all physicians were responsible for half of that amount.  Those physicians, however, were rarely disciplined for their conduct. (Learn more about how Ohio medical malpractice lawsuits work.)

The data demonstrates that only 12.3% of physicians had any action taken against their medical license.  And only 6.3% had any action taken against their clinical privileges to provide care.  That includes care at medical centers and hospitals.

Prior studies reached similar results.  In 2016, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found that 1% of all physicians accounted for 32% of all malpractice claims over the past 10 years.  The researchers determined that a small number of physicians had a negative impact on patient care.

Crowd of people in rows and columns wearing yellow tee shirts

Only a small fraction of doctors are committing the vast majority of medical malpractice in Ohio and other states.

Both studies found that doctors who paid multiple medical malpractice claims were substantially more likely to have additional medical malpractice claims in the future. The researchers also found that “there is evidence that most adverse events result from individual errors and that most malpractice suits reflect both patient injury and error.”

This reflects what many already know, that payouts from medical malpractice require not only poor medical care, but an injury caused by that poor care.  That’s true whether the malpractice results in a permanent injury, or a wrongful death.

Ohio Laws to Protect the Dangerous Doctors who Commit Medical Malpractice

All of this comes at a time when many politicians across the country are seeking to restrict or outright prohibit patients from bringing medical malpractice lawsuits through what is commonly referred to as “tort reform.”

Typical tort reform agenda items include limiting the time period for when a patient can bring a lawsuit, placing an arbitrary cap on the amount of money that can be awarded to an injured patient, and requiring injured patients to submit their claims to physician panels.

According to the Washington Post, Republican lawmakers vow to make tort reform (sometimes also referred to as “medical liability reform”) a top priority of the overhaul of the Affordable Care Act.  Healthcare industry lobbyists and politicians claim that there is “lawsuit abuse,” frivolous lawsuits, and physicians are running needless tests to avoid malpractice claims.

The Real Problem Isn’t Lawsuits

The medical researchers who actually study the issue—not lobbyists and elected officials—found that there are actually “clusters” of physicians who are likely to pay most claims.  For example, 25% of all claims were paid by 0.5% of doctors while 50% of all claims were paid by 1.8% of physicians.

Yet, almost no discipline was taken against these physicians which jeopardizes the safety of the public, fails to discourage poor care, and almost guarantees that these physicians will have additional claims against them.

This data shows that almost nothing is being done to address this subset of wayward doctors.

The problem is not too many patients bringing lawsuits.  The problem is that a few physicians are responsible for too many lawsuits.  Preventing patients from bringing lawsuits under these circumstances does not solve any problems.

This is equivalent to lawmakers making it more difficult to prosecute crimes because a small number of individuals commit a majority of crimes.  Stupid.

Red silhouettes of people with arms raised in front of white screen with horizontal bars as in height measurements for booking photo

Would we accept Ohio lawmakers trying to solve the crime problem by making it harder to prosecute criminals? That’s what “tort reform” does.

What do you think?

Have you experienced questionable medical care?  Are you one of the people who have been told there’s a “lawsuit crisis” that must be stopped?  What do you think about this data?  Share your comments below.

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