Tag Archives: Defensive Medicine

Studies Again Show Dangerous Doctors Bigger Problem Than Defensive Medicine

If I told you that, every week, between 4,200 and 8,400 people were poisoned by contaminated food, would you say restaurants needed special protection from negligence lawsuits because fear of such lawsuits would force them to clean too much? “Defensive cleaning,” so to speak.   If I told you that, every week, between 4,200 and 8,400 people were killed in fires caused by bad electrical wiring, would you say electricians needed special protection from negligence lawsuits because fear of such lawsuits would force them to insulate too much? Call it, “defensive wiring.”   Of course you wouldn’t. Thankfully, I made ... Continue Reading

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Medical Malpractice Accountability Plummets, While Malpractice Epidemic Continues Unabated

I’ve written extensively about medical malpractice myths, including posts about defensive medicine, the realities of malpractice litigation (in which it’s more likely that a negligent doctor will evade responsibility than it is that an undeserving patient will be compensated), and the tricks played to deny injured patients their legal rights, like concealing evidence and intimidating expert witnesses. Just last month I wrote about the hard data on malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania.   Why so much focus on malpractice law? Because it seems to be the area of plaintiffs’ litigation most heavily shrouded with myths and misunderstandings. Just last month, one ... Continue Reading

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The Reality of Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice

For years, I’ve written about the prevailing myths about medical malpractice law, from the falsehoods about defensive medicine to the extraordinary economic damage caused by malpractice itself. Contrary to what the insurance companies and hospital lobbying groups keep saying, “defensive medicine” is simply a myth (if a given test didn’t make a patient substantially safer, doctors wouldn’t gain anything by doing it). The damage caused by malpractice — even when measured in purely economic terms, ignoring the non-economic harms and losses — dwarfs the cost of the malpractice legal system, including all the lawyers and all the settlements and verdicts. ... Continue Reading

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Atul Gawande Versus Sanjay Gupta On Defensive Medicine

In contrast to the demanding world of blogging, where every typo results in an avalanche of criticism, the beauty of speaking on network television in quaint soundbites and writing 750 word op-ed columns in national newspapers is that you rarely have to explain yourself. You will rarely, if ever, be put in the position where you are expected to fully explain your argument, and, hiding behind the presumed credibility of established newspapers and networks, it isn’t likely that you’ll face a thoughtful critique of your argument. Just say something and, ipse dixit, it's true. (There are, of course, rare exceptions, ... Continue Reading

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Choosing Wisely: Healthcare Costs Debate Moves Beyond Defensive Medicine

I haven’t written much about medical malpractice lately because, apart from a couple unique cases, it doesn’t feel like there is anything new to say. Medical malpractice is still responsible for less than one-half of 1% of all United States healthcare costs, and it is still the case that even “hellhole” jurisdictions like Philadelphia are nonetheless still so hostile to patients’ lawsuits that three-quarters of injured patients walk away empty-handed from jury trials. (I would be remiss not to mention this recent study further discrediting the “hellhole” data about Philadelphia’s courts.) But now I have some good news to report: it seems ... Continue Reading

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Playground Safety And The Cheapskate Society

Through Andy Barovick's Twitter feed, I saw John Tierney's recent column in the New York Times about playground equipment: [S]ome researchers ... question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are ... Continue Reading

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Medical Malpractice Liability and Access to Care Debate In Emergency Physicians Monthly

The print edition of September's Emergency Physicians Monthly features a debate between yours truly and WhiteCoat, EPM's in-house blogger on the subject, "Does Medical Malpractice Liability Impact Access To Emergency Care?" I've posted the debate below, with footnotes added to show my sources. I believe WhiteCoat will update his with sources when he gets a chance; you can find his post here. Opening Argument - Max Kennerly A 2006 American College of Surgeons report[1] concluded, "the single most important factor shaping the [emergency] surgical workforce today is declining reimbursement," a euphemism for cutthroat health insurer tactics. Last month, Bayonne Hospital ... Continue Reading

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“How Other Countries Judge [Medical] Malpractice,” By A Law Professor Who Doesn’t Know Medical Malpractice Law

Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago published an opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on medical malpractice. "Embarrassingly ignorant" would be a charitable description. Eric Turkewitz calls it "flat out false." How bad was it? Turkewitz caught two outright falsehoods: American courts commonly think it proper for juries to infer medical negligence from the mere occurrence of a serious injury. and American plaintiffs are sometimes spared the heavy burden of identifying particular acts of negligence, or of showing the precise causal connection between a negligent act and an actual injury. Neither of these are true, as described in ... Continue Reading

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“Obama Open to Reining in Medical Suits” – What Does That Mean?

Via Overlawyered, the NYTimes says: In closed-door talks, Mr. Obama has been making the case that reducing malpractice lawsuits — a goal of many doctors and Republicans — can help drive down health care costs, and should be considered as part of any health care overhaul, according to lawmakers of both parties, as well as A.M.A. officials. It is a position that could hurt Mr. Obama with the left wing of his party and with trial lawyers who are major donors to Democratic campaigns. But one Democrat close to the president said Mr. Obama, who wants health legislation to have ... Continue Reading

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A Dialogue With An Emergency Physician About Health Care Reform

Not too long ago, I believe at the recommendation of Walter Olson at Overlawyered, I started reading WhiteCoat Rants (renamed WhiteCoat's Call Room when he moved to Emergency Physicians Monthly), an anonymous blog authored by a voluble ED doctor. I have over 300 feeds in my Google Reader, including venture capitalists, scientists, professors, economists, security professionals, and ship captains, and while I frequently read Grand Rounds, I didn't regularly follow many practicing physicians. So, what the heck. I didn't expect to comment or to debate, just get another perspective. I have my own blog in part to channel the temptation to respond when Someone ... Continue Reading

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