Medical Malpractice: Are Doctors Disciplined?

Posted on Dec 08, 2008

medical malpracticeHarvard University School of Public Health research shows doctors don't err as much as may be perceived based on medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the United States. Researchers there examined cases involving 33,000 physicians, 61 acute care hospitals and 428 outpatient facilities and found only 63% of injuries were caused by medical error or negligence.


Does that mean for certain that 37% of those claims were biased? It's difficult to ascertain when a plaintiff in pain gets stonewalled when seeking medical feedback on his or her condition. Lawyers representing hospitals and personal physicians typically say little to a potential plaintiffs.

How can they be blamed? As part of the Miranda Rule warns, "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Thus, the swiftest way to get answers is to sue.

A 2007 article in Health Affairs said "as pressure mounts on physicians and hospitals to disclose adverse outcomes...and medical injuries" they should be aware that the volume of claims would rise and providers should be ready for "the financial consequences."

When protecting the reputations of medical colleagues or a facility is more important than a patient's welfare, it's little wonder why doctors who lose or settle malpractice suits are rarely disciplined by their state, medical board or hospital, says the site.

From 1990 to 2002, the National Practitioners' Databank reports "only 10.7% (1,401 of 13,182) of all doctors who made three or more malpractice payouts were disciplined, while just 16.9% (488 of 2,896) of doctors who made five or more malpractice payouts were disciplined."

A 2006 article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Improving the Quality of Care through Litigation against Hospitals" argued the threat of suits performs is beneficial in keeping the medical profession vigilant. George Annas, an attorney and public health official, said hospitals just wouldn't care enough about safety unless they were sued: "More liability suits against hospitals may be necessary to motivate hospital boards to take patient safety more seriously," he said.