And Justice For All – The Case Of Medical Malpractice Claims
Ever wonder why healthcare cost in the US is head and shoulder above any other OECD countries? It can probably be attributed to a multitude of factors. Legal cost against medical malpractice is certainly a significant one.
A recent publication titled “Malpractice Risk According To Physician Specialty” by the New England Journal Of Medicine revealed some interesting facts:
- Each year during the study period, 7.4% of all physicians had a malpractice claim, with 1.6% having a claim leading to a payment.
- The proportion of physicians facing a claim each year ranged from a high of 19.1% in neurosurgery, 18.9% in thoracic–cardiovascular surgery to the lows of 3.1% in pediatrics, and 2.6% in psychiatry.
- The average payment for neurosurgeons ($344,811) was less than the average payment for pathologists ($383,509) or for pediatricians ($520,924), even though neurosurgeons were several times more likely to face a claim in a year.
- Physicians in high-risk specialties face significantly higher risk of facing a claim.
- In fact, so high that by the age of 65, it is estimated that 99% of all high-risk specialty physicians had faced a malpractice claim.
Cumulative career probability facing a malpractice claim
- For those lower-risk specialty physicians, you are in luck. Your risk of having been sued by the same age is only 75%.
It is natural to expect the fact that there are incompetent physicians within the profession, just like there are incompetent teachers, policemen, accountants and lawyers. In legitimate cases of malpractice, the legal system should be designed to protect and compensate victims. However, it is entirely something else when one has a legal system whereby all the practitioners are accused of malpractice when their craft is inherently complex and high risk.
So are our society, and especially patients, expecting too much from our neuro-surgeons and urologists, or is it a case of an excess of lawyers casting a wide net and trolling for settlement, aided by judges who hand out claim awards that are seemingly in-comprehensive? You be the judge.