Medical Malpractice FAQ

I've been hearing a lot about medical malpractice reform lately. What are the key arguments for and against reform?

In recent years, doctor groups, insurance companies, and some patients have criticized medical malpractice litigation, arguing that it's expensive, unpredictable, and inefficient. These critics claim that medical malpractice lawsuits have caused doctor and hospital liability insurance rates to skyrocket, which in turn drives up health care costs and forces some doctors to stop practicing (or avoid performing certain procedures like delivering babies). Reformers argue that the threat of malpractice claims also increases the use of "defensive medicine," placing additional costs and burdens on the health care system.

Those in favor of preserving the status quo of medical malpractice law counter that the recent surge in medical malpractice litigation is tied to an increase in treatment errors by doctors and other caregivers. They point out that liability insurance premiums (once adjusted for inflation) are lower than the previous decade for all but a few doctors that practice in certain specialty areas. In addition, they argue that many factors contribute to liability insurance rate increases and the higher cost of healthcare -- and to blame it all on medical malpractice litigation is to ignore the true reasons for the health care crisis in our nation.

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