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The Harvard School of Public Health has studied the claims by doctors that frivolous lawsuits against doctors are rampant and driving up the cost of health care. The subject is plagued by wild untruths spread by doctors organizations and insurance companies. Recently I had a comment posted to one of my other posts by a fellow who claimed that had handled 50,000 malpractice claims brought against doctors and the although he couldn’t cite any independent sources for his statements, he knew that these frivolous claims were plaguing the health care system and innocent doctors. I’d like to see Peter document the 50,000 malpractice claims that he handled but that is really of no importance. what is important is whether or not there is a frivolous medical malpractice lawsuit crisis or not. Well The Harvard School of Public Health has studied the issue an after an exhaustive process they have published the results and – surprise – they don’t agree with Peter, whoever he is.

Let’s look at what Harvard says about this subject:

The researchers analyzed past malpractice claims to judge the volume of meritless lawsuits and determine their outcomes. Their findings suggest that portraits of a malpractice system riddled with frivolous lawsuits are overblown. Although nearly one third of claims lacked clear-cut evidence of medical error, most of these suits did not receive compensation. In fact, the number of meritorious claims that did not get paid was actually larger than the group of meritless claims that were paid. The findings appear in the May 11, 2006 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

More than 30% of claims that have merit get any compensation at all! The problem isn’t frivolous claims but a failure in the claims process to compensate patients who were injured by the doctor or hospital through clear negligence!

The study was an exhaustive effort involving actual review of closed patient files:

The authors reviewed 1,452 closed claims from five malpractice insurance companies across the country. They focused on four clinical categories: surgery, obstetrics, medication and missed or delayed diagnosis, areas that collectively account for about 80% of all malpractice claims filed in the U.S. Specialist physicians in each of these clinical areas reviewed the claims and the associated medical records to determine whether the plaintiff had sustained an injury from care. If an injury had occurred, the physicians judged how likely it was to have been due to medical error.

The reviewers found that almost all of the claims involved a treatment-related injury. More than 90% involved a physical injury, which was generally severe (80% resulted in significant or major disability and 26% resulted in death). The reviewers judged that 63% of the injuries were due to error. The remaining 37% lacked evidence of error, although some were close calls.

Most claims (72%) that did not involve error did not receive compensation. When they did, the payments were lower, on average, than payments for claims that did involve error ($313,205 vs. $521,560). Among claims that involved error, 73% received compensation. “Overall, the malpractice system appears to be getting it right about three quarters of the time,” said Studdert. “That’s far from a perfect record, but it’s not bad, especially considering that questions of error and negligence can be complex.” The 27% of cases with outcomes that didn’t match their merit included claims that went unpaid even though the injury was caused by an error (16%); claims that were paid but did not involve error (10%); and claims that were paid but did not appear to involve a treatment-related injury (0.4%).

David Stuttert of the Harvard School of Public Health and the author of the study summarized to surprising conclusions:

“Some critics have suggested that the malpractice system is inundated with groundless lawsuits, and that whether a plaintiff recovers money is like a random ‘lottery,’ virtually unrelated to whether the claim has merit. These findings cast doubt on that view by showing that most malpractice claims involve medical error and serious injury, and that claims with merit are far more likely to be paid than claims without merit.”

How could this be, you ask? The propaganda machine in doctors organizations is propagating myths that are repeated across the country and in every community by expensively financed media campaigns. Doctors have a problem admitting that they make mistakes. The ask to be judged by a different standard than average folks. They want a free pass when they injure someone. The harm done by a doctor when he or she injures a patient is usually much greater than the kind of harm that stems from a rear end auto collision. But the doctors don’t want to admit that they hurt some lowly patient.

If you are outraged by this fraud on the public, please know that most doctors never negligently injure their patients and most doctors never have a claim made against them. Medical negligence is committed by only a few but they do a lot of harm. You should be outraged that the politicians in your state and in Congress are either duped by the doctors or take pass legislation favoring the doctors because of the lucrative campaign contributions they receive.

Hawaii attorneys have witnessed an onslaught of immunity for doctors Bills in our legislature in recent years and in 2009 we expect a huge infusion of mainland money to support this outrageous attempt to deny patients the right to compensation for real injuries and real medical errors. Hopefully Hawaii legislators will have the guts to stand up to this shibai. If the public realizes what is being done they will hopefully un-elect those legislators who support false claims. A new study by Arizona State University confimrs that the "medical malpractice crisis" is a fabrication of insurance companies and doctors.

If you read this far, please spread the word. The rights of the people are being threatened. Profits are being protected rather than people. You can put a stop to it and if you don’t do something, who will?

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