Medical Malpractice Litigation Rarely Compensates
In 1990, The Harvard Medical Practice
Study was published. This report, titled, "Patients,
Doctors, and Lawyers: Medical Injury, Malpractice
Litigation and Patient Compensation in New York,"
was conducted to estimate medical malpractice and
the injuries caused by medical malpractice in New
York.The study utilized physician reviewers of records
and consultants who were New York specialists.
According to the study, "adverse
events" occurred in 3.7% of the total hospitalizations.
27.6% of those adverse events were due to negligence.
13.6% of the adverse events led to death. Almost half
of the adverse events were associated with surgical
procedures.The Harvard study also found that 75% of
the negligence was a result of errors in diagnosing
the patients while 18% resulted from negligence with
As part of the Harvard study, records
of the sample were matched with statewide data on
medical malpractice claims in an attempt to discover
the number of documented malpractice claims relative
to the documented acts of negligence. Of the 280 persons
who had documented adverse events caused by medical
negligence only 8 people filed medical malpractice
claims. This represents an astonishing 2% of the documented
medical malpractice claims.
The Harvard study concluded: "
Med mal litigation infrequently compensates patients
injured by med negligence and rarely identifies and
holds providers accountable for substandard care.
Med Mal claims are rarely made after patients are
The study also estimated that only 6.5
of 1000 physicians will be sued in a given year. However,
physicians perceive that number to be three times
higer. When asked in a randomly mailed survey about
the number of new cases each year, physicians estimated
that 19.5 out of every 1000 physicians would be sued
in a given year. This data suggests that although
physicians perception of the risk of being sued might
serve as a potential deterrent to negligent conduct,
that deterrence is based on misperception of risk.
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