Personal Injury Attorney
In theory, the most important goals of litigating medical malpractice cases include providing patients appropriate compensation for the wrongs that have been done to them and to prevent further malpractice in the future. However, there are legitimate questions as to how effective the malpractice system has been in incentivizing doctors to provide patients with appropriate care, as well as to how many harmed patients actually receive compensation.
Having appeared in American law records since the 1800s, medical malpractice cases in the United States experienced a surge in the 1960s. In response, reform of the medical malpractice system became a topic of much discussion. Since that time, there has been a consistent ebb and flow of debate about the pros and cons of medical malpractice reform, with some arguing in favor of alternatives.
Types of Reforms
The debate over medical malpractice reform typically takes place between two different groups of people: patient advocates and physician organizations. The former support the current system as a way to ensure that injured patients receive justice and physicians perform to established standards. The latter, on the other hand, see medical malpractice cases as an obstacle to providing the best care and tend to believe that more litigated claims are spurious than otherwise.
The medical malpractice reforms commonly proposed include the following:
- Paying out awards over time rather than in one lump sum
- Creating barriers to filing malpractice claims to reduce the number of lawsuits
- Imposing award caps on noneconomic damages
Noneconomic damages are those that do not have a precise value. Award caps, which limit doctors’ liability, are the most common types of attempted reforms.
Pros and Cons of Award Caps
Opponents of award caps say that they are not effective at preventing substandard care by doctors and other health care providers, as well as having a negative effect on victims and their families. They also claim that the disabled, the elderly, children, and other vulnerable groups are unfairly targeted by award caps.
Supporters of caps say that in their absence, doctors tend to practice defensive medicine. In other words, adherence to the medical standard of care is of secondary importance to risk management and avoiding lawsuits. They also claim that caps have economic benefits in the form of increasing funds and controlling insurance rates, as well as easing shortages of providers by reducing a potential disadvantage to practicing medicine.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Some have argued that instead of the commonly proposed medical malpractice reforms, the system should adopt a model of alternative dispute resolution. This could allow patients to receive compensation bya less costly and less adversarial method while receiving an explanation and apology for what happened. Research indicates that these intangibles are desired by patients at least as much as compensation.
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