Medical Malpractice Suits

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Medical Malpractice PRINT EMAIL SAVE TEXT Since ICOF last covered medical malpractice on March 12, 1999, Congress attempted but failed to pass legislation capping medical malpractice jury awards. Meanwhile, several states went ahead and dealt with the issue on their own. Click here for the latest developments concerning this controversial issue. • How Common Are Medical Errors? • Malpractice Suits Proliferate • Advocates Say Lawsuits Deter Errors • Malpractice Suits Criticized • Systems Overhaul Advised • Preventive Measures Gain Support • Bibliography • Additional Sources • Contact Information • Keywords and Points • Medical Malpractice Update According to some estimates, American physicians, surgeons and nurses make approximately…show more content…
Since 1994, many Republicans have campaigned to limit malpractice as a way to lower costs for businesses. One of their goals is to reduce the size of punitive damages awarded in tort suits. Conservative policy makers have dubbed tort suits a "litigation tax," since hospitals and doctors must pay heavy insurance fees to protect themselves against lawsuits. Former Sen. Majority Leader Robert Dole (R, Kan.) has been one of the most vocal proponents of reducing tort settlements. Dole has claimed that legal and insurance costs stemming from malpractice litigation are not only burdensome to health care professionals, but are ultimately passed on to patients. Those costs, Dole says, raise the average American's medical expenses by about $1,200 a year. In 1995, the House passed sweeping legislation that would have limited the overall number of tort lawsuits in the U.S. and placed a $250,000 cap on punitive damages. The legislation was ultimately vetoed by Clinton, who said the law did not adequately protect consumers' rights. Daniel Mendelson, vice president at Lewin-VHI, a health care consulting firm, wrote in Business & Health (June 1995) that malpractice reform would be detrimental "if reforms cut costs but violate the two key purposes of the system: compensating victims for losses and sending providers a clear signal about what constitutes appropriate…show more content…
Meanwhile, several states went ahead and dealt with the issue on their own. Among the key events:  The New York Times reported on January 2, 2001, that federal officials had said they would soon change a policy that permitted physicians who were being investigated for errors in their treatment of Medicare recipients to keep their mistakes from being made known. Under the current law, when a Medicare recipient or one of their family members filed a complaint against a doctor, a peer review committee would look into it but the doctor could request that the result of the inquiry be kept confidential. The policy shift had occurred after a suit was filed against the government by the son of a Medicare recipient who had died in the hospital of a stroke after being admitted for asthma complications. [See 2001 Facts on File: Medicine and Health--Medicare to Disclose
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